MELBOURNE (Reuters) - For someone who is the defending champion at Melbourne Park, Stan Wawrinka is remarkably upbeat about the lack of focus falling upon him.
The 29-year-old Swiss advanced to the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open with a comfortable 6-4 6-2 6-4 win over Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen on Saturday and what most people wanted to ask him was ‘what about Federer?’
“Go for it. Roger?,” a grinning Wawrinka said in his post-match media conference when one journalist broached the F-word.
“Roger lost yesterday. Yeah, there’s a lot of question over that. How did he play? How did he feel? If I talk to him today? Just tell me what you want to know,” he said laughing.
Wawrinka had watched most of Federer’s match against the 46th-ranked Andreas Seppi on Friday and like virtually everyone else in the tennis world had been surprised at his shock loss.
“It was a surprise, for sure,” he said. “I watched... big part of the match.
“I think Seppi was playing really well, playing really flat like he can play and Roger was not feeling great on the court. You could see (that) but it was a big surprise for everybody.”
Wawrinka, sporting a red and white ‘Stan The Man’ T-shirt, which he said he is happy to sell to anyone who wants one, has spent his entire career in Federer’s massive shadow.
Last year, however, was his chance to seize the limelight.
At the age of 28 he became the oldest man to win their first grand slam since Goran Ivanisevic clinched the Wimbledon title in 2001.
He won his first Masters series tournament in Monte Carlo and Federer helped him win Switzerland’s first Davis Cup.
The level-headed Swiss has repeated throughout the first week at Melbourne Park that 2014 was, quite frankly last year, and he wanted to focus on this year’s tournament.
Even then, however, he also accepted that he was not ‘the story’ of the season opening-grand slam.
Novak Djokovic is the hot favourite, Rafa Nadal is coming back from injury and illness, Kei Nishikori became the first Asian man to make a grand slam final at Flushing Meadows, while Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic are dominating local media.
“I’m not the focus on the tournament for sure,” Wawrinka said. “For me doesn’t matter. I’m feeling good. I’m feeling great. I’m happy the way I’m playing.
“To get to the second week again, it’s great. So far everything is good for me.”
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly