Magnus Norman first began working with Stan Wawrinka in 2013, and since then the Swiss has proven himself one of the best players on the ATP Tour. He has reached No. 3 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, won three Grand Slam titles, and competed in the Nitto ATP Finals four times. However, Wawrinka has had to compete against the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for the spotlight.
“Stan is one of the best players to ever play the game, if you look at his record, if you look at winning three Grand Slams, winning three different Grand Slams in the era where he had the Big Four playing,” Norman told ATP Tennis Radio. “He’s a little bit underestimated for sure, and he’s been in numerous semi-finals as well, another Grand Slam final. He’s had an unbelievable career.”
It hasn’t all been easy for Norman and Wawrinka. The Swiss is still on the road back to his top form since undergoing two left knee surgeries in August 2017, which sent him as low as World No. 263 in 2018.
“It’s been a little bit up and down. He doesn’t have the same stability as Andy Murray or Novak or Roger or Rafa, but in his best moments, I think he can beat all of those names on a very good day,” Norman said. “That’s what makes him a little bit special, also. You don’t really know which Stan to expect on the day or on that occasion, and that’s why I think a lot of people really like him.”
Norman admitted it could be frustrating when Wawrinka has ups and downs, which in part comes from his aggressive play. But those same traits make the Swiss as dangerous as he is.
“Stan is a gambler. He plays with small margins. He’s the kind of guy that will put everything in red, do or die,” Norman said. “This is his personality a little bit, so I think it’s very tough to change his personality. But I also think that’s the reason why he won three Grand Slams. He can rise to the occasion. He can go for shots that normally someone else will play a little bit safe. That makes him that dangerous, I think.”
The Swede doesn’t like to discuss how he’s affected Wawrinka’s career; he’d rather the Swiss speak to that. But Norman has tried to get Wawrinka to rely on his physical strength — Norman calls him “super-super strong” — to challenge opponents. They also have a strong chemistry as a coach-player tandem.
“One of the things he mentioned is I made him a winner… everybody saw before he could play great tennis,” Norman said. “He told me that the words I’m telling him before a match calms him down a little bit and makes him believe that he could win in big moments.”
In addition to his duties with Wawrinka, former World No. 2 and 2000 Roland Garros finalist Norman is the co-founder and technical director of the Good to Great Tennis Academy in Sweden. He gets to work with one of the most talented players in the world in Wawrinka, but Norman says talent isn’t all that makes a great player.
“The most important thing is the passion, that they have the passion and drive that they want to become better. A lot of coaches, a lot of parents, they talk about talent,” Norman said. “Real talent for me is the ability to work hard on a daily basis, even if you lose sometimes, you lose some matches, but you don’t lose motivation. When you lose, you go out and you work even harder. That’s the real talent for me. That’s important, to look at the passion and drive, the coachability.”
At an ATP Tour event in Europe or the Americas between January and July 2021, Norman will have a new student who will be plenty eager to do whatever he says. Norman will conduct a private two-hour session alongside Wawrinka and fellow team member Daniel Vallverdu for the winner of an auction to support members of the ATP Coach Programme in need due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m going to give it everything I have. When the player comes on court I’m going to try to make the player as good as possible,” Norman said. “I think it will be a great experience… It’s going to be a great session and I’m really looking forward to it.”
For now, Norman plans to meet Wawrinka in Monaco to prepare for the scheduled American hard-court swing. Although his charge is 35, Norman says they still have plenty of expectations.
“If he can play a good match, if he can play good tennis, it’s going to take a lot to beat him,” Norman said. “He’s that good.”