Sunday, January 11, 2015

Which Wawrinka Will We See in 2015?

For a guy who won a Grand Slam tournament, a Masters 1000, the Davis Cup title, and reached two other major quarterfinals, Wawrinka's 2014 was fairly inconsistent.  His highs were phenomenal, but he left several wins on the table that were his for the taking.  Losing to a fatigued Nishikori in the US Open quarters was a tough loss for him to take, and a first round defeat at the French Open to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez was one of the biggest surprises of the year. 

While Wawrinka fell into a slump during the middle to end of the season, he seemed to find his better form during the last month.  He reached the semifinals of the ATP World Tour Finals, losing a heartbreaker to Federer 7-6 in the third.  He then posted a solid win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Davis Cup finals, helping lift Switzerland to their first title. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise wasn't that Wawrinka struggled at times, but that everyone suddenly expected him to light the tour on fire.  While the Big Four led us to believe only all-time greats can win majors, there have been plenty of stretches where merely very good players won slams by getting hot for a two-week stretch.  It's naive to think everyone who wins a major will dominate week in and week out throughout the year.  Many wanted to hold Wawrinka to the standard of a Federer or Djokovic, but he was never going to transform into the guy who wins nearly every tournament he plays.

Wawrinka won't be expected to win another grand slam this year, but his season should be more consistent than his 2014.  He struggled a bit with his newfound fame and enhanced expectations during the second half of last season, but that will all be behind him in 2015.  His game translates to every surface, and at 29 he is still well in the prime of his career.  If Nadal continues to struggle with injuries, there should be some draws at bigger tournaments that Wawrinka can take advantage of.  He's more suited to playing the role of challenger than favorite, and this is something he can go back to this year.

His ranking will likely fall early in the year given all the points he has to defend, but he'll have lots of chances later in the season to make it up.  His highs may not be quite as high as they were in 2014, but Wawrinka is more than capable of putting together another borderline top five season.

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