Watching Stanislas Wawrinka’s stunning performance at this year’s Australian Open has been one of the highlights of 2014 so far. If his victory in the final was arguably spoilt by the injury of Rafael Nadal, nobody could deny his brilliant win against four-time victor Novak Djokovic.
He has been a player in great form. Having seen Wawrinka play Nadal at the O2 finals in London at the end of last season, it was clear that he was a player brimming with self confidence. Nadal managed to beat him 7-6 7-6 on the day, but the Swiss clearly had the shots to really trouble the world number one. Just a couple of months on and Wawrinka has turned those missed chances into defining moments.
It goes without saying that to win the Australian Open you cannot rely on one shot alone; the winning mentality and belief in your overall game is essential. However, Wawrinka’s one-handed backhand was one of the outstanding shots of the tournament.
In recent times, this style of backhand has become unfashionable, with Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray showing the great power and angles that the two-handed backhand can provide.
The unpredictable Richard Gasquet and the great Roger Federer are two of the few remaining players to use the shot, and it has been questioned as to whether it will be eradicated all-together. Nowadays, it is the two-handed backhand that is taught by tennis coaches across the globe.
But, the new world number three has shown the way to bring the most elegant shot in the game back into the spotlight.
The difference with Wawrinka’s backhand is that it fits perfectly into the attacking shotmaking that makes his overall game so dangerous. A strong serve, lethal forehand and ability to take the ball on early allow the Swiss shotmaker to hit winners with his most potent weapon.
Looking at his backhand alone, he has wonderful control over his technique, in a similar vein to Stefan Edberg. Yet, with Wawrinka he can impose this shot against the power of the very best. He can withstand the powerful groundstrokes of Djokovic and Nadal and produce backhands of sheer quality either cross-court or down the line.
The new Australian Open champion showed in Melbourne that he can play the backhand at the right time, producing the perfect shot at the end of some brutal rallies. So, maybe Wawrinka will inspire a new generation of players to play the one-handed backhand. Either way, watching him win his first Grand Slam, with a great attacking flair, has been truly spectacular to witness.