Swiss giantkiller Stan Wawrinka fears no one as he eyes membership to one of the most exclusive clubs in tennis.
Wawrinka can join all-time greats Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray as only the fifth man in the past decade to win multiple majors with success in Sunday’s French Open final.
Australia’s former world No.1 Lleyton Hewitt, planning to retire after his record-setting 20th straight Australian Open appearance next January, is the only other active player to have landed at least two slams.
But after taking down Djokovic and Nadal to win last year’s Australian Open in spectacular fashion and sweeping past Federer en route to the final in Paris, Wawrinka – at 30 and on his favoured surface – feels ready to shed his one-slam wonder status.
“When I play my best, I know I can beat all the players,” Wawrinka said after breaking French hearts with a 6-3 6-7 (1-7) 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 semi-final triumph over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Friday.
“I have been playing really well since the beginning of the tournament.
“I have been really focused on the way I’m playing, on the way I’m dealing mentally with my pressure, with the way I want to go into this tournament.
“Jo is always a tough player to play, especially when he’s playing at home here in Paris.”
So tough is Tsonga that he claimed the prize scalps of Djokovic, Murray and Federer to win last year’s Toronto Masters.
But after losing his fifth consecutive grand slam semi-final since falling to Djokovic in the 2008 Australian Open decider, the Frenchman has no doubts Wawrinka can go all the way at Roland Garros.
“He did it once, so why not?” Tsonga said.
Wawrinka is the first player since eventual champion Albert Costa in 2002 to make the final after crashing out in the opening round the previous year.
Now “Stan the Man” can hardly believe he has the chance to become the first former junior champion at Roland Garros to win the men’s crown since Mats Wilander in 1982.
“My dream was to play Roland Garros, not to win it, not to reach the final,” Wawrinka said.
“The fact that I have reached the final now here is something exceptional after winning a grand slam in Australia a year ago now.
“And to think that this is yet another final in yet another grand slam, it’s something amazing.”
Wawrinka will play either the top-ranked Djokovic or third-seeded Murray for the title.
Djokovic was leading 6-3 6-3 5-7 3-3 when the grand slam titans had their semi-final suspended on Friday night because of a severe storm warning in Paris.