"That's the reason why I came back...I love and enjoy to play in front of people, to play in the biggest tournaments you can play. Today was something really special," Wawrinka had said after his over 5 hour epic battle with Stefanos Tsitsipas at Roland Garros.
It was a tug-of-war drama the two opponents played. There were times Wawrinka might have thought he'd win in three sets, but Tsitsipas fought to level things at 2 all in sets and play off the fifth. Wawrinka was used to the fight and had it during the Rotterdam final with Gael Monfils, this year coming out the runner-up.
It was a match of missed chances to give the title to the Frenchman. Indian Wells had come and thee duel with Roger Federer happened but Wawrinka came up short again. As the clay court season swung around, he thought his chances would improve in Madrid against Rafael Nadal.
"I'm happy with the way I'm playing so far...Rafa, it's a challenge to play him on the clay court...I know I'm physically good, so we will see," the Swiss had said before the match. But he failed to make good on opportunities again, giving the quarterfinal to Rafael Nadal in straight sets.
Roland Garros would be different he might have told himself. He healed from his two knee operations and despite losing in opening rounds at the Sofia, Italian, Miami and Geneva events this season, he was determined to make good of this grand slam.
He didn't wipe out all of his previous opponents in straight sets. He went the distance of pushing a 4-setter in the first round of the French with Bosnia's Jozef Kovalik and winning. Afterwards, he'd win in three straight sets with Cristian Garin.
The drama in Wawrinka's time at Roland Garros was just starting to build as he'd capped two set tiebreak wins over Grigor Dimitrov in the round of 32. Night fell and play resumed the next day. The return proved positive for Wawrinka as Dimitrov's momentum and strategies faltered.
He would lose the match and the Swiss would go on. NextGen guys have always had a reputation as strong, competitive and never saying it's done until it is. This happened when Wawrinka took on Stefanos Tsitsipas. The sets went back and forth with first the Swiss winning the opening tiebreak.
He had that experience with his previous opponent Dimitrov. Then Tsitsipas broke back to level the sets. Stan Wawrinka was the Man as he threw out his signature blasting backhand returns stinging Tsitsipas, but not without in getting a battle in return.
The young Greek stayed focused until the bitter end, with both being at the end of their physical energies. "I never experienced that kind of atmosphere here in Paris on Lenglen," Wawrinka exclaimed, so glad to have his 'mojo' back reaching a grand slam quarterfinal in two years.
Tsitsipas had a set point in the opener but Wawrinka was able to stop his aggression and turn things around to become the victor. The Greek was all played out and at the end coming up short said "I feel exhausted...never experienced something like this in my life.
I feel very disappointed at the end..." But Stan Wawrinka had the winning hand after facing challenges for over a year, not knowing if he'd be able to get to this point or not. The Swiss will meet another at the quarterfinal round, Roger Federer.
The head-to-head stats is 22 to 3 in Federer's favor. But what happens, happens. Wawrinka has gotten his victories, satisfactions and glories already at this French Open. He is really in a win-win situation. If he defeats Federerit will be a greater success record and if he doesn't it might be expected.
Wawrinka has played a magnificent hand of tennis thus far. He's gained physical strength, mental stamina and supreme confidence to know he can tackle anyone glaring at him on the other side of that net and with a good battle -- come out a winner.