French Open

'Fearless' Stan has earned respect - Koenig

2015-06-08 13:46
Robbie Koenig (BLD Communications)

Cape Town - ATP World Tour commentator Robbie Koenig says Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka has earned more respect following his second Grand Slam win.

An ultra-aggressive Wawrinka shattered Novak Djokovic's dream of a career Grand Slam on Sunday when he became the oldest winner of the French Open in 25 years.

The 30-year-old Swiss claimed a famous 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 victory to secure his second career major, after earlier beating Spaniard Rafael Nadal to claim the 2014 Australian Open.

It ended world No 1 Djokovic's bid to become only the eighth man to secure a career Slam as he slumped to his third defeat in a Roland Garros final in four years.

Wawrinka became the oldest champion in Paris since Andres Gomez in 1990 after just his fourth win in 21 meetings against the Serb.

There was a school of thought that Wawrinka was a "one-slam wonder" due to the fact that he had beaten an injured Nadal in the Australian Open final at the beginning of last year.

Koenig, who spoke exclusively to Sport24 on Monday, felt this second major win earned Wawrinka more respect in the tennis community and will also help him step out of compatriot and 17-time major winner Roger Federer’s shadow.

“I had a real good chat with my friend Yevgeny Kafelnikov (two-time Grand Slam champion). I remember Kafelnikov saying to me: 'Winning one major, it’s fantastic, but when you win a second one, it gives you credibility you could not even imagine because people will always question you over the one. Was it lucky, did the draw open up for you? But when you do it twice, it’s a different kind of respect that you get from the tennis community’.

“And of course, the manner in which Stan won his first Grand Slam at the Australian Open, with Nadal a little injured, of course there were lots of people asking questions.

“But boy, did he ram it down everybody’s throats yesterday. And you’ve got to really keep this in perspective. Not only has he won a second major, but he’s won it beating the best player on the planet at the moment, and a guy who’s playing some of the best tennis of his career. So it was not like he was playing somebody a little off his game. Both his wins in Grand Slam finals have come against world No 1s. How good is that!?”

Wawrinka dominated Djokovic with an all-out attacking game plan, hitting 60 winners to the Serb’s 30. He also attacked the net more regularly with a 70% success rate, while his ability to hit backhand winners down the line proved the ultimate undoing of Djokovic.

“He’s got a three-pronged attack and he’s not scared. There are very few guys with that. There are guys with big serves and big forehands, but he’s got the additional asset to his game where he’s got a three-pronged attack (big serve, forehand and backhand).

“And the fact that he’s fearless, that is so unnerving for a great player when you come up against a guy like Stan. You could beat him 1 and 1 (6-1, 6-1), then next week you can lose to him, because when he’s on and he doesn’t back down... and everybody was waiting for him to back down and get tight yesterday, but it didn’t happen.”

Regarding Djokovic, Koenig said the defeat could have an impact on the confidence of the world No 1 going forward.

“There could be a hangover effect after this. The only thing I can say that would count against it is the fact that he has been so dominant. I think he’s more mature now that he ever was, but it think Wimbledon will give us a good idea of where he is, if there is still a big hangover after this loss or not.”

Robbie Koenig is a former South African professional tennis player and current commentator on the ATP World Tour.

Follow @RobKoenigTennis on Twitter.


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