French champ Wawrinka: Federer ‘always really happy’ for him

PARIS (AP) — So here’s how far Stan Wawrinka has come: Now that he is a two-time major champion, the guy ignores congratulatory phone calls from none other than Roger Federer.

OK, well, that’s not exactly how it went. But Wawrinka did say Monday, less than 24 hours after beating Novak Djokovic in the French Open final, that he wasn’t able to answer a post-match call from good pal Federer, his Swiss Olympic and Davis Cup teammate, because it was time to do a news conference.

Wawrinka did read a text message from Federer.

“He is always really happy for me. It’s true happiness,” Wawrinka said. “He is always behind me. He likes when I win. He loves that.”

For years, Wawrinka toiled in his countryman’s not-insignificant shadow, a top-20 player who would occasionally win a smaller tournament or get to the quarterfinals of a major — while Federer was spending more time at No. 1 in the rankings, and collecting more Grand Slam trophies, than any man in history.

They paired up to win a gold medal in doubles for Switzerland at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, then gave the nation its first Davis Cup title last November.

Those successes helped boost Wawrinka’s confidence. So did coach Magnus Norman, the 2000 French Open runner-up.

After their first practice session, in 2013, they sat down to check a calendar and figure out which tournaments Norman could attend. Norman mentioned the season-ending ATP World Tour finals, which only admits the top eight players.

Wawrinka wasn’t even among the top 15 at the time.

“I told him: ‘What? I’ll be there?’” the 30-year-old Wawrinka said Monday.

Sure enough, he made it.

“Some coaches try to give you confidence, to push you all the time, telling you that you are great, that this is a boxing match and you are going to hit your opponent hard,” Wawrinka said. “He is just telling me small things that make a big difference.”

Norman helped improve some aspects of Wawrinka’s game, such as his forehand. His one-handed backhand, as pure as any stroke in the sport, was just fine.

The partnership paid dividends. Wawrinka reached his first major semifinal at the 2013 U.S. Open, and won his first Grand Slam title at the 2014 Australian Open.

Then Wawrinka showed up at the 2014 French Open and lost in the first round.

“We had a burger at McDonald’s,” Norman recalled.

This time, they stuck around for the entire tournament, then feted Wawrinka’s triumph Sunday night with a low-key dinner and drinks at his hotel with family and friends.

“I did not feel capable of winning Roland Garros,” Wawrinka said. “Now that I’ve done it, I can say that I’m capable of doing it.”

Yes, actuality does prove possibility.

Still, the day after, it all seemed a bit surreal to the guy known as “Stan the Man.”

He will relax a little at home before heading to the Queen’s Club grass-court tournament. Wimbledon begins June 29.

“That’s the good thing and bad thing in tennis. The good thing is, like, when you lose, you already have a chance the next week to focus and to have a chance to win,” Wawrinka said. “But when you win, you don’t have too much time to enjoy it, because you need to be ready for the next one.”

Whatever happens at the next one, and those after that, he is now, and forever will be, the winner of multiple Grand Slam titles.

“It’s strange to say, and to see, that I’m there,” Wawrinka said. “It’s a strange feeling, but it’s a great feeling.”

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