Wawrinka and Cilic face toughest challenge yet

Sun Nov 9, 2014 8:50am EST
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By Ian Chadband

LONDON Nov 9 (Reuters) - They muscled into the most elite club in tennis this year but, perhaps, becoming a grand slam winner was just the easy bit. Now, at this week's ATP World Tour finals in London, it is time for Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic to prove why they belong there.

The pair have both discovered their dramatic breakthroughs — Wawrinka’s Australian Open victory in January and Cilic’s U.S. Open triumph in September — have proved no instant gateway to a new level of constant, elevated success.

Swiss Wawrinka has endured a season of maddening inconsistency. Croatian Cilic, who has swung between a first- round defeat in the Shanghai Masters and a lower-key triumph in Moscow, reckons he has been a target for every wild gunslinger in town ever since mowing down all-comers at Flushing Meadows.

Yet if their brilliance on the biggest stage has been harder to replicate than they could have imagined, they ought to find encouragement from the words of another first-time grand slam winner who endured plenty of under-achievement before re-emerging to prove himself one of the great champions.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who opens the defence of his Tour finals crown against Cilic at the O2 Arena on Monday, knows the “biggest adjustment after becoming a grand slam winner is a mental one” and fancies it could be the biggest challenge for both Cilic and Wawrinka “right now and in months and years to come.”


In 2008, Djokovic won the Australian Open, assuming that more grand slams would swiftly follow. Instead, it took him three years to land the next one, which then really did open the floodgates to his current haul of seven.

“In my case, I did have a lot of doubts in those years after my first grand slam, mostly because I lost the majority of the big matches in the Majors against two of my biggest rivals, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal,” said Djokovic.   Continued...

Stanislas Wawrinka smiles during a news conference at Palexpo in Geneva September 9, 2014.  REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/Files