How Stan really became the man

Now, it's on to the French Open. With his No. 3 ranking, Wawrinka wouldn't have to face Nadal, Djokovic or Federer until the semifinals. But even before any potential matchups with the game's foremost players, Wawrinka has some fairly arduous endeavors in front of him if he is going to build on his Grand Slam success.

No player since Jim Courier some 24 years ago has won the first two majors of the year. The Aussie and French are two vastly different events, and though the surfaces across the board have homogenized in recent years, Roland Garros is still very much a unique obstacle, especially when you look at the granular details (so to speak) involved.

"The clay is a different feeling with sliding, with longer matches sometimes," Wawrinka said. "I think I grew up on clay so I always love to play [on it.] The challenge to beat the top guy is always really, really tough. Especially Rafa, because he's the best player ever on clay and the biggest challenge to beat him on clay, especially in Paris."

Since Monte Carlo, however, Wawrinka has stumbled, dropping a tight three-setter to one of the game's rising stars, Dominic Thiem, in his Madrid Masters opener. And a week later, Wawrinka lost early to Tommy Haas in Rome, a string of defeats that could leave people wondering if he's vulnerable. But the notion that these were considered pretty big upsets goes to show you how far Wawrinka has come.

The fact remains, though, that Nadal hasn't skunked his opponents in the same fashion as he has in years past on clay. He won Madrid but was outplayed by  Kei Nishikori in the final before the world No. 9 retired with back spasms. And in Rome, Rafa lost to Djokovic, who is coming off his own injury, in the final. And as for Federer, he's played only two matches since the birth of his latest twins, including a straight-sets wins here Sunday.

Which leads us to the obvious question: Can Wawrinka win his second consecutive major?

"He is my third favorite to win the French," ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert said. "The guy is really impressing me. But I will say hard courts right now is his best surface. A lot depends on weather. Let's say you get dry weather: Wawrinka's game could be even more dangerous because he can hit through the court. If you get rain and the surface is slower, that would make it tougher."

Wawrinka said he won't be thinking about how to beat Nadal in Paris. His only concern will be playing his style of game and concentrating on who's next in the draw.

But forgive us, the overzealous media, for wanting a little more. Right now, Wawrinka is statistically the only player who can sweep the majors and accomplish one of the rarest feats in tennis: the season Slam. So we ask you again, Brad Gilbert, can he do it?

"If you had told me before the season he was going to win a Slam, I would have put his odds at 0.1," he said. "But he won the Aussie. So anything else after that is gravy. But to run the table and win the others. How many guys have done it in the Open era?"

A rhetorical question from Gilbert, of course, who knows the answer is only the great Rod Laver, who bushwhacked all of his competition in 1969. So yeah, it does seem like a bit of a stretch.

"Considering Wawrinka had never won one before and then to win all four, I mean oh my god," Gilbert said. "Odds would be astronomical: 1,000-1."

Small odds, for sure. But on the bright side, they're a hell of a lot better than anyone else's.

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