For Stan Wawrinka, the debate on who the greatest player of all time is doesn’t need much of a discussion.
The Swiss dropped in for a lengthy conversation on Wednesday with Chris Evert via Instagram Live. Evert grilled Wawrinka on what it’s like to face the Big Three and he candidly admitted that his greatest difficulties have come in facing 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.
“He’s the best player ever so far. He’s been winning everything, beating everybody. He’s better than the other players and better than me,” Wawrinka said. “His game is a completely different style. He puts you under pressure all the time, he’s so aggressive, changes [pace] a lot. For my style of play, that’s tougher than someone who keeps [hitting] the same ball.”
— ATP Tour (@atptour) April 22, 2020
Wawrinka also had plenty of praise for Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. He said that Nadal’s serve is one of the more underrated shots in the game and the heavy spin on it is further amplified on a clay court. The Swiss is 1-8 against Nadal on clay in their ATP Head2Head series, with all of those defeats coming in straight sets.
“I have difficulties to return the ball well because of the spin he hits and the lefty serve. He doesn’t have the best serve, but he makes it difficult for me and always puts me directly under pressure,” Wawrinka said. “On clay, it’s impossible. Forget it.”
Evert took time to highlight Wawrinka’s three victories over Djokovic in Grand Slams from 2014-2016 during their discussion. But while the former World No. 3 in the FedEx ATP Rankings acknowledged that the Serbian is his preferred opponent among the Big Three, he still felt there was a gap between them and cited his record (6-19) in their ATP Head2Head rivalry as proof.
Here’s Stan talking about that famous fortnight with @ChrissieEvert 👇
— ATP Tour (@atptour) April 23, 2020
“Novak is the one in the Big Three that I like to play the most, even if I’ve lost to him many times. I play the best against him and have been lucky to peak against him in Grand Slams,” Wawrinka said. “I feel like I can keep my power with him for three, four or five hours. Those three times I beat him, I kept playing my game.
“[But] even after beating Rafa or Novak, they’re still way better than me. They’re still in a different category than me. I beat them one time here or there, but I know it’s a different league.”
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Although the modest Wawrinka downplayed himself against the Big Three, Evert called out his achievements that include 16 tour-level titles and 13 consecutive seasons inside the Top 20. The Swiss said he has no regrets about his career and would have been satisfied even without a trio of Grand Slam titles to his name.
“We’ve been in a difficult generation to win more because of the Big Three and Murray… I needed more time to be at my best. Some people might wonder why I didn’t win Grand Slams before [age 28], but It’s not about why. I’ve done it. For me, that’s the positive,” Wawrinka said. “I could have never done it, been Top 20 for the rest of my career and been super happy about it because I think it’s amazing to be in the Top 20.”