WHAT HAPPENED IN MONTE CARLO
Third seed and Australian Open champion Wawrinka recovered from the loss of the opening set to claim his maiden Masters title on the Monte Carlo clay just six weeks before the May 25-June 8 Grand Slam tournament in Paris.
Fourth seed Federer, who beat an injured Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, was his brilliant old self for almost an hour but the 17-times Grand Slam champion was eventually overwhelmed by his opponent's power.
Djokovic meanwhile, said he would not be able to play tennis "for some time" after his defeat to Federer, due to a wrist injury.
Andy Murray, still without a coach, decided to skip the tournament.
With the traditional 'top four' all having problems or question marks about them, Wawrinka has put himself in great shape to win his second successive Grand Slam title in Paris. He is currently third favourite with the bookmakers to win Roland Garros behind Nadal (evens) and Djokovic (11/4) and the fact that the 8/1 actually seems like value just shows you how far he has come. If he does succeed in Paris he will be halfway towards the most unlikely of Grand Slams. Obviously Wimbledon doesn't really suit his style but he will be a contender in New York. It could very well be 'The Year of Stan.'
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
There is still plenty of time for the top players to find some form on clay before Paris. This week Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer are in Barcelona while Fabio Fognini will be one to watch in that event too as he looks to emerge as an outside contender for Grand Slam glory. Wawrinka's next event is in Estoril next week but it will not be until the Madrid and Rome Masters events on back-to-back weeks in early May that all the top players do battle against each other on clay. Those two tournaments should tell us a lot.
WHAT THE MEDIA SAID
Neil Harman (The Times): What do Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Marin Cilic and now Roger Federer have in common in 2014? All of these champions have felt the sharp end of the racket with which Stanislas Wawrinka yesterday added further to his year’s career-changing story. The 29-year-old 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 victory over Federer in the final of the Rolex Masters at the Monte Carlo Country Club was every bit as momentous in terms of the shaping of his character as his outrageous success in January at the Australian Open. To his first grand-slam tournament title we can now add his breakthrough at Masters 1000 level, with Swiss bells on it.
Matt Wilansky (ESPN): A little more than a year ago, it was hard to imagine we'd be speaking of Wawrinka in the same context as Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. He was a solid player with a ranking drifting back and forth between Nos. 10 and 30, but certainly not someone who we'd have picked to win significant tournaments on tour. But after coaching changes and a boost in confidence, Wawrinka is slugging the ball off both wings -- perhaps more ferociously than anyone at the moment.
EUROSPORT EXPERT PATRICK MOURATOGLOU ON NADAL
For me, Rafael Nadal is mentally the strongest player in the history of the game. However his confidence has dipped. He lost the Australian Open with a back injury, and that affected his intensity. Yes, he won in Rio, but he admitted playing mediocre tennis all week. He lost Dolgopolov in Indian Wells, Djokovic in Miami and Ferrer in Monte Carlo.
He says he is playing well in training and badly in matches, and .
During matches he is not going for his shots, the ball comes off his racket less well, and there is tension in his arm. He is playing within himself and has to work harder for every point.
The timing of this crisis is difficult for him. He is probably the greatest clay-court player of all time, and was all but unbeatable on the surface last year. So he is defending a huge number of ranking points, and the number one spot is under threat.
Only when his confidence grows will he be able to be more enterprising – but without this aggression he is struggling for results. It is a tough trend to reverse.
WHAT THE FANS SAID
HsSimon (Eurosport Yahoo! user): As much as I love to see Fed winning, this time it's the right time for Stan the Man to do so. It's so good to see his immense talent, craft and commitment pay dividends with the AO and now his first Masters crown. He could very well go on to dominate the clay season and RG isn't far away. Fed will have his share of titles this year, already with one and then 3 finals, which is not a bad haul.
Woodstar (Eurosport app user): Well done Stan. Brilliant result for him. But let's not kid ourselves. Nadal will step it up a notch at RG. He will be different class when the time comes. He will win it again.
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