Madrid Open 2013: Stan Wawrinka Continues Brilliant Play in French Open Warm-Up

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IMay 13, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 11:  Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland celebrates matchpoint over Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic in the semi-final match on day eight of the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament at the Caja Magica on May 11, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

With the 2013 French Open marking the first major in which each of the "Big Four"—Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal—will enter with at least one Grand Slam title, the stage is set for a memorable semifinal. 

Stanislas Wawrinka looks like he's ready to crash that party. 

Blessed with a thundering backhand and terrific baseline game, the 28-year-old Wawrinka has always had burgeoning talent. His mental toughness, however, has left much to be desired, and he has never quite lived up to his potential. 

Well, better late than never. 

2013 is playing out to be Stan the Man's breakout year.

He started it off in Australia, where he battled eventual champion Novak Djokovic to five hard-fought sets in a scintillating fourth-round classic. 

After coming up short against David Ferrer in the Copa Claro finals and impressively taking Roger Federer to three sets at the BNP Paribas Open, Wawrinka appeared to take a massive step back when he fell to Tommy Robredo in Casablanca. 

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But that step back forced him to make that most crucial move of his career—one that has resulted in three giant leaps forward: On April 16, he hired former World No. 2 Magnus Norman as his coach

Since the duo has collaborated, Wawrinka has annihilated Andy Murray in straight sets, won the Portugal Open with a redemption victory over Ferrer and made it to the Mutua Madrid Open final with mentally strong three-set victories over Grigor Dimitrov, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych. 

He fell to Nadal in the championship to end his impressive nine-match winning streak, but it's undeniably clear Wawrinka, who just catapulted five spots to No. 10 in the world rankings, is playing at an elite level. 

His upcoming appearance at the French Open is shaping up to be the most perfect of perfect storms:

In 2013, Wawrinka has beaten the No. 2, No. 4, No. 6 and No. 8 players in the world. All four victories have come on clay—his best surface—since hiring the same trainer who led Robin Soderling to two French Open finals and the only win in history over Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros. 

Wawrinka has always had the talent. But now he has leadership in his corner, mental stability and proven production and results to back it up. 

The furthest he has made it at the French Open in his career is the fourth round. But with the way things are shaping up, that's no longer his ceiling. It's his floor.