Classic. Epic. Amazing.
Those are only a few of the adjectives that best describe the matches Stanislas Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic played against each other at the 2013 Australian and U.S. Opens, both won by Djokovic in five-set battles.
But approaching their third meeting in the past five majors, is Wawrinka ready to turn the tables on the six-time Slam winner?
This could be the best opportunity for the world No. 8 to do so, and if he were to beat Djokovic—who has won four Australian Opens—it shouldn't come as too much of a shock.
For one, Wawrinka has been playing the best tennis of his career over the past year-and-a-half. Long considered one of the most talented players on the ATP World Tour, Wawrinka's results before 2013 didn't do his game justice.
There were glimmers in prior seasons that he might be able to join his much-more-accomplished countryman Roger Federer in the top 10 on a consistent basis. But aside from a brief dip amid those lofty heights back in 2008, Wawrinka found himself for the most part hanging within the top 30.
That is, until last year, when on the strength of deep runs at three of the four Grand Slams and solid weekly performances, Wawrinka established himself as a top-10 threat—not only in potential. One of the main factors that led to his turnaround was taking on former world No. 2 Magnus Norman as his coach.
Norman's time as a player was marked by a nearly unparalleled work ethic, and it's something he's helped Wawrinka improve upon, much like he did when he helped his countryman Robin Soderling reach the top five and become a two-time French Open finalist.
And coaching will play a crucial role in determining Wawrinka's fate against Djokovic, one of the most difficult "outs" on tour over the past four years. Wawrinka and Norman will have dissected those five-setters from last year to the Nth degree, looking for any possible holes that can be exploited that were missed before.
Wawrinka's confidence, preparation and belief will need to be at their utmost for him to beat No. 2 Djokovic. And if the way he's carried himself already in 2014 is any indication—with a title at the warm-up event in India and a run to the quarters in Melbourne—this could be his best opportunity for a career-defining performance.
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