New York: Late-blooming Swiss star Stan Wawrinka is playing tennis with the passion of a youngster and with a third Grand Slam title calling at the US Open the 31-year-old is in no mood to slow down.
He may never have the cachet of the so-called "Big Four" whose names now dominate men's tennis -- Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal -- but he's ready and able to give any one of them a run for his money every chance he gets.
"So what should I do?" said a mildly affronted Wawrinka, when asked how he stayed motivated in the face of the quartet's continuing influence.
"I'm 31 years old," Wawrinka said. "What do you want me to do? Just go to the beach? Not do anything?
"Did you ask that question to Rafa also or to Andy?"
Wawrinka emerged from the shadow of superstar compatriot Federer with his Australian Open triumph in 2014.
His run in Melbourne included an epic five-set win over three-time defending champion Djokovic and a victory over injury-hit Nadal in the final.
With the win in his first Grand Slam final the then-28-year-old supplanted Federer at the top-ranked Swiss player.
Wawrinka backed up that breakthrough with a victory over Djokovic in last year's French Open final -- denying the Serb in his first bid to join the select club of men to complete a career Grand Slam.
With an elegant one-handed backhand and bullish refusal ever to back down Wawrinka has established himself as one of the biggest threats on the game's biggest stages.
Tattooed on his left forearm are the words of Irish poet Samuel Beckett: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."
And Wawrinka's late-career success is his reward for years of perseverance.
He lost 14 times in a row before triumphing over Djokovic en route to his Australian Open title.
He went a dozen matches without taking a set off Nadal until beating him in that championship match.
In reaching his first US Open final -- after semi-final exits in 2013 and 2015 -- Wawrinka has saved a match point in a gritty five-set win over unheralded Dan Evans, held off 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro in four and rallied for a four-set win over 2014 finalist Kei Nishikori.
There's no mystery to what's driven him through nearly 18 punishing hours on court -- it's the same engine that drives him at an age when many are thinking of winding down their careers.
"I love my sport," Wawrinka says. "It's my passion. It's an amazing feeling to be out there."
Published Date: Sep 11, 2016 15:58 PM | Updated Date: Sep 11, 2016 15:58 PM