Has Stanislas Wawrinka Stepped Out from Roger Federer's Shadow?

Merlisa Lawrence CorbettFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2013

Stanislas Wawrinka with Roger Federer during 2011 Davis Cup play.
Stanislas Wawrinka with Roger Federer during 2011 Davis Cup play.Matt King/Getty Images

If Stanislas Wawrinka wins the 2013 U.S. Open, he will replace Roger Federer as the top-ranked player in Switzerland. 

Right now, he's certainly playing better than Federer. 

Wawrinka, ranked No. 10 in the world, takes on defending U.S. Open champion Andy Murray in their men's quarterfinal on Thursday. 

It's the first time in Wawrinka's career that he has advanced further than Federer in a Grand Slam. 

After years of playing understudy to Federer, Wawrinka appears ready to take the spotlight, as he looked unstoppable in his fourth-round win over Tomas Berdych

After defeating Berdych, Wawrinka spoke to Reuters about the odd reversal of fortunes between himself and Federer:

It's a different situation, for sure...I'm really happy for myself this year, with what I'm doing right now, but I would prefer to have him still playing in the tournament.

For years, Wawrinka has been "that other Swiss guy."  

Always listed as "The Swiss No. 2" on the ATP Tour, Wawrinka seemed content to play a supporting role in his relationship with Federer.

The two often team up for doubles in international play, winning a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, but failing to medal in the 2012 Olympics. 

During the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, it was Wawrinka, not Federer, who carried the Swiss flag. Although Federer had led the Swiss team out in the previous two Olympics, he declined the offer and asked that Wawrinka have the honor last year. 

Federer did take heat for blaming Wawrinka for Switzerland's Davis Cup loss to the U.S. in 2012. Federer seemed to take the defeat personally because it was in Switzerland and on clay. He reportedly chose clay to exploit what he perceived as a weakness in the U.S. team. 

Instead, the Americans swept the Swiss, as Mardy Fish and Mike Bryan defeated Wawrinka and Federer in doubles. Then, in the biggest upset of the series, John Isner beat Federer. Fish later won his match against Wawrinka. 

 During an interview with the French press, via ESPN.com, Federer was quoted as singling out Wawrinka's performance:

I played well enough in doubles, but Stanislas not so much... (Wawrinka) didn't have his best match in singles. It's a shame, because of that defeat we weren't able to put the U.S under pressure.

It was as if the good-looking, more-successful older brother was chastising the younger sibling for screwing up. 

Federer later clarified his comments, saying that he was misunderstood. He also said he spoke personally with Wawrinka to clear the air. 

Yet things appeared chilly between the two. Wawrinka expressed disappointment when Federer decided to skip Switzerland's Davis Cup tie against the Czech Republic earlier this year.  He seemed to think Federer had abandoned the team when it needed him most, according to Tennis.com:

It’s a shame how he interprets things to suit his own opinion. Davis Cup is not a priority for him at the moment.

When they play each other, Wawrinka often appears in awe of Federer, who holds an 8-1 record against his compatriot. 

However, Wawrinka told the New York Times that playing in Federer's shadow has been more positive than negative:

When I arrived, I was young, so for sure I was a little bit behind him. For myself, as a shy guy, it was better. And then I had the chance to practice so many times with the No. 1 player, to have advice from him, to play Davis Cup, to play Olympics. So I can only be thankful for him, that’s for sure.

Only four years younger than Federer, the 28-year-old Wawrinka has played his entire career dwarfed by the maestro. By the time Wawrinka turned pro in 2002, Federer was already a Top-10 player.  

Of course Wawrinka's career is not in the same stratosphere as that of Federer and it never will be. Wawrinka would have to dominate tennis well into his 40s to eclipse Federer's accomplishments. 

But for now, Wawrinka can enjoy the big stage, alone. Playing the best tennis of his life, Wawrinka has finally emerged from Federer's shadow.