Federer tells Wawrinka ‘little by little’ he will fix issues
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic say they share the pain of Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka who is battling to keep his head above water as a Grand Slam title winner.
Wawrinka claimed his first major at the age of 28 when he knocked out Djokovic and then defeated Rafael Nadal in the Melbourne final in January.
But the world No 3 slumped listlessly out of the French Open at the hands of Spanish journeyman Guillermo Garcia Lopez in the first round.
Wawrinka admitted that he was struggling to “put the puzzle back together”.
That’s a sentiment his Davis Cup teammate and close friend Federer knows all too well.
When he sensationally defeated Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001 on a run to the quarter-finals, his return to the All England Club 12 months later ended in a humbling first round loss to Mario Ancic as the hype overcame him.
“With Stan, I understand where he is, because I was in such a position at a moment in my career, and it’s not even the pressure itself. I think it’s how you look at yourself and at your game,” said Federer after reaching the third round on Wednesday with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over Argentine qualifier Diego Schwartzman.
“Without changing everything, this is what he’s got to work on and solve this, fix this. Little by little. It will not happen overnight.
“But with Australia, with the Monte Carlo Masters, it’s in his pocket already. Nobody can take this from him. It will give him time.”
Djokovic also recognises the pitfalls of fame – after winning the first of his six majors at the 2008 Australian Open, he had to wait three more years for his second.
“I understand what Wawrinka is going through. In 2008 when I won my first Grand Slam, I know how that period went after that,” said world No 2 Djokovic.
“It’s the first time that you have to encounter pressure or expectations of being a favourite in Grand Slams.
“I think it’s a new experience, and it’s something that is going to be with him for the rest of his career, because he’s a Grand Slam winner now, so he’s going to be favourite in most of the events where he plays.”
In his lean Grand Slam spell, Djokovic also only reached one final – at the 2010 US Open – before taking the second of what has since become four Australian Opens.
Djokovic, who reached the Roland Garros third round with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over Frenchman Jeremy Chardy on Wednesday, even sees a mirror image of himself in Wawrinka.
“I can identify myself with Stan. What he’s saying is that from the mental perspective, the expectations and the pressure and suddenly all the attention is directed to you,” he said.
“Before that, you had really not much pressure or you were just going out there and playing the tennis and swinging through and not really thinking too much about the things off?court.
“And suddenly you have to start thinking about everything else. But it’s all part of the sport, part of what we do. With great success comes great responsibility.
“Over the years I realised that the pressure is a privilege.”
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Published: May 29, 2014 04:00 AM