Wawrinka’s career has been turned around by the inspired choice to appoint former French Open finalist Magnus Norman as a coach. The Swede was a master tactician during his days on the tour, and one of the best clay-courters in the business.
Before his career was prematurely ended by injury, he had reached No.2 in the rankings and after amassing some of the world’s most prestigious titles on the dirt, he was tipped as a future Roland Garros champion.
Now he’s busy establishing an equally impressive reputation as a choice.
Under his guidance Wawrinka made the quarter-finals in Paris last May before stunning Andy Murray on the way to the US Open semi-finals. He went on to qualify for the World Tour Finals, defeating David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych to make the last four.
Former Australian Open finalist Thomas Enqvist (and a close friend of Norman) believes Wawrinka is capable of cracking the top 5 at some point this year.
“I think Wawrinka especially can achieve some big things this year,” he said.
“He has the game to match up well with the best players in the world. He has the tools to be a good competitor. With Magnus’ guidance he can continue to do well. Magnus is a good motivator, super serious and he knows what it takes to compete at the highest level so I think Stan will have another good season.”
Wawrinka starts his season this week in Chennai before moving on to the Australian Open, the scene of his epic clash with Novak Djokovic last year which showed him he was finally becoming the player he’d always wanted to be.
“I still think that I can improve,” he said.
“I just need to find the way how, and do it this season. These days I’m sure I’m doing the right thing on the practise court. You never know if you're gonna win the match, but you know how hard you can practice and how well you can wake up to practice harder and to try to improve your game.
I know that if I practice well, then I give me all the chance to have some great results.”
Grigor Dimitrov also begins 2014 with high hopes for a standout season after rising to a new career high of 23 at the end of last season, displaying a consistency which he’d never quite been able to muster before.
However so far in his career Dimitrov has chronically underachieved in the majors.
He made the third round at the French Open last June but was soundly beaten by Novak Djokovic in straight sets and went out early at the other three slams.
His growing army of fans will be hoping that the appointment of new coach Roger Rasheed, a man with a reputation for enforcing hard work and discipline, can give Dimitrov the extra steel he needs to go with his undoubted natural talent.
“A major is completely different story,” Dimitrov said.
“I think I still need more time on the tour to get stronger and be able to hang with the top guys, especially over best‑of‑five sets. That's not an easy task. To make the final of a slam, you got to play seven matches best‑of‑five.
After the third round it's mind over matter. But I want to try and do this as soon as possible.”
Dimitrov has already got his season underway, beginning his campaign in Brisbane with an impressive straight sets win over Robin Haase.
He reached the final there last year, losing to Andy Murray in straight sets and a similar run could see him come up against childhood hero Roger Federer on Sunday.
“There’s not a big difference between the top 10 and the guys ranked in the 20s, but there’s always just a little something that they come up with or they bring it out when they really have to, whether it's on a break point or they’re being put under pressure,” he said. “This is like a such a small, small thing, but it makes the biggest difference.”