Stan Wawrinka: the ‘Stanimal’ is back


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Stan Wawrinka: the ‘Stanimal’ is back

Absolutely no one conjures belief like Stan Wawrinka at a grand slam level. After knocking out defending champion Novak Djokovic in the marquee match on Sunday night, there’s no doubt that the Swiss player’s comeback is now complete.

Since bowing out with knee surgery in 2017, it’s been a difficult road back for the three-time slam champion. His performance has been uneven, and he hasn’t won a title since he went out two years ago. Wawrinka’s bowed out in second rounds several times this year, even as he’s been building his career back up.

"It's been really tough since my surgery," Wawrinka said in his post-match on court interview. "It took me two years now to be back at that level. Last time I entered this court was last year. I wasn't really ready, but it's been amazing to be back this year at that level.

The atmosphere is always something special to play a night session." There have been positive signs that “Stan the Man” has returned to the vintage form that saw him best Djokovic in the 2016 US Open final.

Although he’s gone out in some early rounds, he’s also progressed to the quarterfinals at several tournaments, including the French Open and now the US Open this year. He also made the final at Rotterdam, defeating top players Benoît Paire, Milos Raonic, Top 10 competitor Denis Shapovalov, and Kei Nishikori before running into a resilient Gael Monfils.

The former world No. 3 has been rising in the rankings, including a dip into the Top 20 earlier this year, at No. 19. Although he’s currently at No. 24, he’s likely to move back up after his impressive run so far at Flushing Meadows.

It’s a testament to his stubborn will that he’s positioned himself around the Top 20 after falling down to No. 263 last year. "I was feeling good on the court," Wawrinka said after his win over the world No.

1. "I was playing well. The more the match was going, [the] better I was playing. I was hitting really hard the ball. I was feeling great on the court. That's the most important”. Stan Wawrinka thrives in grand slam venues, who along with Andy Murray, is the only man to achieve more than one grand slam in the era of the Big 3.

Even more admirable, he faced two of those top three at the time to collect his slam titles, including defeating Djokovic at the French and US Opens, and Rafael Nadal to get to his maiden slam at the Australian Open in 2014.

The 34-year-old Swiss fighter will face Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who has been angering crowds throughout the US Open with his bad boy antics. The 23-year-old Cincinnati Masters winner seems to be reveling in his unpopular image, as evidenced by his courting of boos in his last two matches.

Wawrinka and Medvedev have only played each other once, in 2017, on the grass courts of Wimbledon. Medvedev won that bout, but grass has always been Wawrinka’s least successful surface, and the match took place shortly before the Swiss started having knee problems.

It is likely that the crowd will cheer on the veteran on Tuesday. There’s a good chance that this time the outcome will also be reversed, and we might be treated to an all-Swiss semifinal. Roger Federer is the only member of the Big 3 who Wawrinka has had the most difficulty in defeating.

In his 26 tries, he has only done it three times, the last time in 2015. Still, with the commanding form Stan Wawrinka has displayed throughout the US Open, he will be a formidable opponent to anyone for the remainder of the slam.