By Laura Amato
It’s time to start paying attention to Stan Wawrinka.
The third-seeded star flew under the radar in the days leading up to the US Open, but he stepped into the spotlight on Tuesday, cruising to a straght-set victory over Fernando Verdasco at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I’m really happy. I think it was a great match, especially for the first round,” Wawrinka said. “You never expect to play your best game and full of confidence, but I think the level was quite high.”
Wawrinka was never particularly challenged in the first-round tilt, dominating on the return and claiming a bit of on-court revenge with the 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 6-4 victory.
Verdasco led the head-to-head matches against Wawrinka 3-2 after defeating the Swiss star earlier this year at the Queen’s Club.
That didn’t seem to both Wawrinka, however, who breezed through the match. It was the second time he defeated Verdasco on the Grand Slam stage.
“I think also the last few years I have been a way better tennis player in the court, especially on big events,” Wawrinka said. “Today, again, I knew I was ready physically to get there. Tough condition at the beginning, but, yeah, I think in general I’m better than a few years ago. That’s made the difference.”
In the days following the Rio Olympics, much of the tennis world focused its collective attention on the likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and the continued absence of the injured Roger Federer, but not much attention was paid to Wawrinka.
That changed with his decisive victory. Wawrinka believes he’s a serious championship threat, now drawing his fair share of looks in Flushing Meadows and not just because of his bright on-court attire.
“Yeah, it’s a bright year so far for me, in Grand Slams especially,” said Wawrinka, who sported a bright pink ensemble for his opener. “My expectations for myself are more higher than before. For me, the most important thing is to focus on what I can control, all the practice, all the schedule, giving everything every practice being ready for the tournament.”
Wawrinka spent over a week in New York before taking the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium and the two-time Grand Slam champion said the preparation was key to his quick start at the US Open.
“It’s a Grand Slam. You need focus match after match,” Wawrinka said. “In general, I’m really confident with my preparation, with the way I’m playing in practice court, the way I’m moving.”
Wawrinka wasn’t perfect in the opener. He made a fair share of errors in the tiebreaker, but cut down on the miscues when it mattered most and, most importantly, was comfortable while he played.
There wasn’t any drama. There weren’t any nerves. There was simply a statement—don’t overlook Wawrinka.
“My ranking is No. 3 in the world, I’m seeded three here. Playing first round on Ashe everything is different,” he said. “Right now I know I’m ready for here, for the tournament. And now I’m going to see how I’m going to deal with the pressure, with the match, and trying to play the best I can until as far as I can.”