Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka acknowledges that Switzerland has its best chance in years to win a first Davis Cup title. “We all know that we have a good opportunity, especially since Roger is playing and I am playing,’’ Wawrinka said on Tuesday, ahead of a home quarterfinal against Kazakhstan.
The tie opens on Friday in Geneva on an indoor hard-court, with Wawrinka ranked No. 3 and Roger Federer rising again to No. 4. Kazakhstan’s best-ranked player is No. 56 Mikhail Kukushkin. The winner faces Britain or Italy in September. The Swiss, who won the first-round tie in Serbia, would have another home tie if Italy is the semifinal opponent.
Switzerland last reached a Davis Cup semi 11 years ago, when Federer lost a key five-setter against Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt. It is 22 years since the Swiss lost the final to a stellar United States team of Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and John McEnroe. “We are not thinking already to the final,’’ Wawrinka cautioned, though adding: “We are, on paper, big favorites for this weekend.’’
With most tickets sold for Friday’s opening singles, Wawrinka can expect a hero’s welcome in his first home match since winning his first Grand Slam title in January. “For sure, it’s going to be amazing especially after my beginning of the year,” Wawrinka said. “First (Davis Cup) quarterfinal for me, playing in Geneva in front of 16,000. I’m excited for that.”
Thursday’s draw should pair Wawrinka and Federer in the opening singles against Kukushkin and 64th-ranked Andrey Golubev. Wawrinka started his run to the title at Melbourne with a first-round win over Golubev, who retired injured in the second set. The Swiss No. 1, a rankings status over Federer which still raises a bemused smile from Wawrinka, has since lost in the last 16 to lower-ranked players at Masters Series events at Indian Wells and Miami.
“You are not a challenger any more in tournaments,” Wawrinka said of being a major champion. “You are always part of the favorites. That is how people see you, that is how the players see you.” Four years ago, Wawrinka surprisingly lost to Kukushkin as Kazakhstan cruised to a 5-0 victory in a Davis Cup relegation playoff.
Federer was absent then, and he was for the formal pre-match news conference on Tuesday, which was the 36th birthday of his pregnant wife, Mirka.