Wawrinka ready to emerge from Roger's shadow

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The Independent Online

It was probably the most bizarre celebration in the history of tennis. After his victories in the semi-finals and final of the Olympic doubles tournament in Beijing last summer, Stanislas Wawrinka would lie on the court while his partner, Roger Federer, knelt down and held out his hands as if warming them over a camp fire.

The explanation? Federer said that Stanislas Wawrinka was on such a hot streak that he was on fire. As a partnership they were certainly too hot for the opposition and their gold-winning performance earned them the accolade back home as Switzerland's team of the year. It was one of the few occasions in Wawrinka's life that he was able to share the limelight with Federer.

The Swiss No 2 is an accomplished player in his own right, ranked No 18 in the world, but usually the only place where he can upstage the five-times Wimbledon champion is on the table tennis table. Wawrinka beat his Davis Cup colleague at the Monte Carlo Masters for the first time two months ago, but Federer was on a working honeymoon at the time, having wed his long-time girlfriend, Mirka Vavrinec, five days earlier.

Wawrinka, 24, is one of Federer's best friends in tennis. They are Switzerland's first-choice players in both singles and doubles in the Davis Cup, which is where Wawrinka has his best opportunity of getting one over the former world No 1.

"I play Roger at ping pong in Davis Cup ties," Wawrinka said. "I have beaten him at ping pong, but it's not easy." He agreed that he was quite different in personality to Federer, particularly on the court. "He just plays in a more relaxed way and always makes it looks easy," Wawrinka said. "We're quite similar away from the courts, but on the court we're not the same for sure. He's the best player ever and he's playing so well."

Did he think he would be doing his fellow countryman a favour if he could beat Murray today? "That's not what I'm thinking when I go on court," Wawrinka said. "For sure if I won on Monday Roger would be happy, but that's not what I'm thinking."

Wawrinka's surname is evidence of his Polish ancestry, but his father is German, his mother is Swiss and he has Czech grandparents. He left school at 15 to concentrate on tennis full-time, won the French Open junior title in 2003 and broke into the world's top 100 four years ago, reaching a career-high No 9 in the world rankings after reaching the final of last year's clay-court Rome Masters.

He is at his best on clay – his only tournament victory on the main tour came on clay at Umag, Croatia, three years ago – and in the week of the pre-Wimbledon grass-court events at Queen's Club and Halle chose to play in a clay-court Challenger tournament in Switzerland, which he won.

Two years older than Murray, Wawrinka did not cross paths with the Scot until Britain played Switzerland in the Davis Cup in Geneva four years ago. Wawrinka won in straight sets in Murray's debut singles rubber in the competition.

They have since become good friends. "We have been friends now for four or five years, since we came on the tour together," Wawrinka said. "We are almost the same age and we practise a lot to together. We enjoy being together and talking in the locker room."

Has Wawrinka seen a change in Murray since his climb to No 3 in the world rankings? "Of course he has changed, but not with me," Wawrinka said. "He's the same. In his game, yes, for sure. He is playing much better."