If Swiss tennis star Stan Wawrinka is somewhat synonymous with pyjama shorts, he is tougher than he looks. Since he started playing tennis aged eight, the 30-year-old Lausanne native has gone on to win some 300 matches, among them two Grand Slam titles, and achieve a career high of world No.3. When he’s not honing his legendary backhand (which won him this year’s French Open), he enjoys relaxing in the Lake Geneva region and supporting the Lausanne ice hockey club. The tennis calendar doesn’t allow for much free time, though. Coming up soon is Swiss Indoors Basel, where Stan and fellow countryman Roger Federer are part of an all-time-best line-up that also includes nine more players from the top 15. The Basel tournament is one of Stan’s favourites, but he reckons people would also enjoy watching him and Roger play table football. He tells us why.
How did you get into tennis? Did somebody inspire you?
My parents wanted me and my siblings to practice some sports outside school. And since we lived next to a tennis club, we decided to play tennis. I didn't have an idol so to speak, but I always enjoyed watching Pete Sampras and Alex Corretja.
When did you consider you played your best tennis, and what do you attribute it to?
I'm really proud of how I played in Roland Garros. I played some of my best tennis against Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. I've always enjoyed playing in Paris, ever since I was a junior and won the junior event there. Being Swiss, this is the Grand Slam that is closest to us, the one we watch first, and visit first if we are lucky enough.
Nowadays the atmosphere in tennis is fairly volatile. Any of the top tier of players can get beaten at any time. How do you keep your confidence up?
For sure it is not easy to maintain your level. I've had quite a lot of ups and downs – much more than people like Novak or Roger, who are unbelievably consistent. There are so many great players out there, and even if on paper you look like the clear favourite, it's always a big challenge against them.
For such a small country, Switzerland has two great sportspeople in you and Roger Federer. How much do you think your success comes down to your being Swiss?
Good question! But I don't really have an answer. Switzerland has been very lucky to have so many talented players in the past – Marc Rosset, Jakob Hlasek, Martina Hingis, and now Roger and myself. That's unbelievable for such a small country. As a child I was lucky to have the support of my parents because starting a tennis career is a very expensive adventure.
You and Roger made the perfect pairing as part of the winning Swiss team in the Davis Cup. If you had to play one another in a table football match, who would win?
I would be very motivated, believe me! I think it would be a tough challenge with a lot of joking and noise – and for sure an entertaining match for anybody who watches it. The loser would request a rematch right away!
Where is your favourite place in Switzerland?
I love the region around Lake Geneva. The landscape is beautiful, very peaceful and such a nice place to relax and spend time outdoors. It's always a pleasure to come back home.
How does playing at Swiss Indoors Basel compare to the other tournaments in your calendar?
I've always enjoyed playing in Switzerland. The crowd support is amazing here and Basel is one of the best indoor tournaments in the world. The line-up is always impressive, and I hope that I can play well this year and enjoy the fan support for as many matches as possible.