Just over three months ago, Wawrinka completed the ultimate capstone of his career in winning the year's first major in Melbourne. In the process, he beat Novak Djokovic in the semis and Rafael Nadal in the final, becoming the first player in 21 years to take out the top two seeds en route to a major championship. And right now, no player can say he has more than Wawrinka's three titles in 2014. So whether he likes it or not, Wawrinka can't duck the mounting attention anymore.
"I know I am on the list as one of the favorites," said Wawrinka, who has struggled since winning Monte Carlo, losing two of the three matches he played in Madrid and Rome. "But for me, I am still far away from Nadal, Djokovic and Federer."
A humble analysis, so much so that you could argue Wawrinka's most impressive feat this season has been his ability to keep his feet firmly on the ground -- even with the new heights he's reached. But despite the dearth of end zone dances, we probably should have seen his emergence brewing. After all, the Wawrinka renovation started ...
"I think last year, for sure -- the first match for sure in January against Djokovic in Australia," Wawrinka said. "It helped me get the confidence to see I can play with the top guys. Then it was winning my first title in Oeiras [Portugal] and then made the final in Madrid, and in two weeks I was back in the top 10. I had a few moments last year that were really key and made my first [Grand Slam] semifinal at the US Open. All of last year was special for me. I was playing and winning against the top-10 guys."
Now don't feel too bad if you, like so many of us, were thrown by the early results on tour this season, which hatched only the third new Grand Slam champion since Djokovic won his maiden major six years ago. Even a guy who has coached 10 world No. 1s was unabashedly surprised.
"Who saw that coming?" Hall of Fame coach Nick Bollettieri said. "The guy's never won a major or even a Masters -- and now he's got both. It's amazing what a little confidence will do for you. And, man, he's playing with a lot of god damned confidence right now."
Winning begets winning
Coming in to 2014, Wawrinka had a grand total of four titles, including a four-year stretch in which he had ... none. This season alone, he has three. So what exactly happened?
"Confidence made me more relaxed on the court," Wawrinka said. "When I am relaxed, I move better on the court. I am seeing the things I want to do more clearly. And I am doing it and I trust myself. That's the main reason. I trust myself; I trust my game to beat the top guys."
With an amazing 6-0 record against the top-10 players in the world this year, Wawrinka's confidence has climbed higher than the Eiffel Tower, something he attributes to the work with his coach, Magnus Norman, a former French Open runner-up.
"He has been here for over a year," Wawrinka said. "After one year, I am No. 3 in the world and won one Slam and Masters 1000. When he arrived, he helped me on practice court. He is a really good guy; he is really focused on what we are doing and trying to improve. He gave me a lot of self-confidence to trust myself [and] showed me how to win, how to beat the top guys."