For the first time in his career, Stanislas Wawrinka no longer resides in the shadow of his illustrious compatriot Roger Federer.
The Swiss flag was flying on US Open semifinal day not for Federer, but Wawrinka, who achieved the best result of his Grand Slam career in New York in 2013 in his 12th year as a pro and very nearly went through to the final before falling to Novak Djokovic in five stunning sets.
It was his second class match against the Serb in the majors this year; who could forget their incredible battle on Rod Laver Arena in the fourth round of Australian Open 2013, a match Djokovic ultimately won 12-10 in the fifth?
A player as obviously comfortable on the big stage as Wawrinka is one you most definitely want playing for your town at Australian Open 2014 as part of the AO Blitz.
Despite going down to Djokovic in those battles, it was part of a memorable season for the Swiss No.2, choc-full of highlights and career-firsts.
He joined Federer as the second Swiss in the top 10, peaking at his highest-ever ranking of No.8 in October. He won more than 50 matches and almost $3 million in prizemoney, made possible by reaching four ATP finals and recording strong results at the majors – he also reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros.
And by virtue of those performances, he qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals in London for the first time, and made his presence felt; he beat the higher-ranked Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer in round-robin play, pushed world No.1 Rafael Nadal to two tiebreakers, and progressed to the semifinals.
Wawrinka is enjoying a rich vein of form. How can you get him playing for your town at the upcoming Australian Open?
It’s easy – the more points you earn by completing challenges, the more points you earn for your nominated town. And the higher your town finishes on the leader-board, the more chance it will have of being represented by a highly seeded player. The top two towns on the leader-board will flip a coin to see which one scores the top-seeded male player, or the top-seeded female.
Your town could be associated with the Swiss at Australian Open 2014; giant information screens around Melbourne Park, plus scheduling signage, would feature his name, nationality and the Australian town he’s ‘playing for’.
It’s a pretty exciting concept, especially when you consider the prizes on offer. If your representative player wins the men’s or women’s Australian Open singles title, your town will be treated to an AO Blitz party for the entire community, and a whole host of other prizes.
Judging by the significant improvements he made in 2013, Wawrinka has positioned himself as a strong candidate for title success at Melbourne Park.
He slugs the ball with a heaviness and ferocity rarely seen in the game, breaking down even the very best of retrievers. The courts in Australia suits his booming serve, powerful groundstrokes and all-court polish, and having also reached the quarterfinals Down Under in 2011, it’s clear he’s comfortable on Melbourne’s Plexicushion courts.
And then there will be the increased motivation that will come from playing many of the very best so close yet ultimately falling short. In addition to those tense matches with Djokovic and Nadal, he lost nail-biting encounters with Federer at Indian Wells, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Monte Carlo. The difference between being a solid top 10 player and a bona fide top five star rests on winning a couple of those battles, and Wawrinka, brimming with confidence, will undoubtedly be ready to pounce if he finds himself in a similar situation next season.
By registering for the AO Blitz and completing as many challenges as you can, you'll increase your chances of having Wawrinka playing – and continuing his ascent toward a Grand Slam victory – for your town at Australian Open 2014.