Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Stanislas Wawrinka showed greatness can be achieved at an advanced age.
In March 2012, Wawrinka had just turned 27, by which time most players have reached their peak and often start to a decline. Wawrinka was ranked No. 29 at that time.
Nearly two years later, Wawrinka got to a Grand Slam finals for the first time and won it, beating a hobbled Rafael Nadal in four sets in the Australian Open finals. Wawrinka's ranking will jump to No. 3 in the world, ahead of the likes of Andy Murray and Swiss countryman Roger Federer.
Wawrinka will turn 29 in March and is older than Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Murray. But he announced his arrival now.
His rise started with a loss at the 2013 Australian Open. Wawrinka was ranked only No. 17 in the world when he nearly upset Djokovic in the fourth round at Melbourne last year. He lost 12-10 in the fifth set of that riveting match, but suddenly he was taken seriously by the tennis public.
Wawrinka hired Magnus Norman as his coach last April, and his ascent continued.
He got to the quarterfinals of the French Open, then again showed promise at the 2013 U.S. Open by beating Murray and taking Djokovic to five sets again before losing in the semifinals.
Wawrinka made his breakthrough at the 2014 Australian Open with two big victories.
He had lost 14 straight matches to Djokovic dating back to 2006, but beat him 9-7 in the fifth set in the quarterfinals.
Wawrinka was 0-12 against Nadal entering the finals, having failed to win a set against the Spaniard in those 12 matches. However, he knocked off Nadal in four sets to claim the title and jump into the top three of the rankings. Nadal's back injury certainly aided Wawrinka's victory, but Wawrinka had already won the first set and led 2-0 in the second before Nadal's back problem arose.
Wawrinka, who was ranked and seeded No. 8, became the lowest-ranked man to win a Grand Slam singles title since 2004 and the lowest-seeded man to win the Australian Open since 2002.
Perhaps more significantly, he became the oldest first-time men’s Grand Slam champion since 2001, when Goran Ivanisevic won Wimbledon two months shy of his 30th birthday.
The question now is whether Wawrinka can withstand the pressure of being a star and continue to win.
"He's the real deal," Pete Sampras said, according to the BBC.
We will see. The big test will come at Wimbledon, an event that has brought out the worst in Wawrinka. In the past four years, he has lost in the first round at Wimbledon three times and the second round once. He failed to win a set in a first-round loss to unseeded Lleyton Hewitt at the 2013 Wimbledon.
For Wawrinka to be mentioned in the same breath as Federer, Murray, Nadal and Djokovic, he must learn to perform well on grass.