Stanislas Wawrinka showed that his first Grand Slam title wasn’t a fluke, upstaging his more illustrious countryman to add a maiden Masters trophy in Monte Carlo on Sunday.
Wawrinka came from a set down to beat Roger Federer 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2 in the Monte Carlo Masters final, another milestone in the late-blooming 29-year-old’s career.
Having beaten Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal en route to his Australian Open victory this year, Wawrinka showed again he can compete with the best by earning just his second career victory against Federer in the first all-Swiss ATP final in 14 years.
"When I go into a match against them, I think I can beat them. I’m on the court to win," Wawrinka said. "I’m more consistent and I have better results. The difference is that now I have more trust in myself."
Wawrinka, whose ranking has climbed to third, has won all three finals he has played this year.
"It already changed last year when I start to first make my first quarter in French Open, final in Madrid, my first semifinal in U.S. Open," he said. "I start to realize I am able to beat all the players. That’s what I am doing this year and I’m doing well."
Djokovic, hampered by a sore right wrist, lost to Federer in the semifinals, while eight-time champion Nadal was beaten by David Ferrer in the quarters.
That opened the way for Wawrinka, but he still had to get past 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer, who held a mighty 13-1 advantage over him before the final.
"When I came here, for me it was more like a test," Wawrinka said. "I knew I was playing good tennis."
The fourth-seeded Federer, who accepted a wild-card invitation to play in the tournament, was also looking to win the Monte Carlo tournament for the first time after losing his three previous finals here to Nadal from 2006-08.
Wawrinka’s only other win against Federer also came here, in the third round in 2009. The two won the 2008 Olympic doubles title together and are close friends.
"Today it was a personal challenge. Playing against Roger is always very special," Wawrinka said. "He always had that advantage on me. He’s used to those situations."
It was the first time that Federer and Wawrinka met in a championship decider. In the last all-Swiss final, Marc Rosset beat Federer in Marseille in 2000.
"I think he deserved it just a little bit more," Federer said. "It’s a huge win for him after winning his first Grand Slam this year, also to win his first Masters."
With the third-seeded Wawrinka serving for the match, Federer shouted in frustration as he missed an easy forehand on second serve at 15-15. On the next point, Federer’s backhand went wide and Wawrinka clinched the victory with a crisp forehand winner on the line.
The result won’t affect their friendship.
"This is pretty rare in sport, in a very selfish and very individual sport," Wawrinka said. "We are there to try to win, but we have a lot of respect for each other. We don’t overdo it. Before the match we had lunch together. After the match we were laughing together in the locker rooms."
It is Wawrinka’s seventh career title. He had lost his previous Masters finals at Madrid last year and Rome in 2008.
Federer broke for a 3-2 lead when Wawrinka’s backhand long, and served out the first set when his countryman over-hit another backhand.
Wawrinka secured a break to take a 2-0 lead in the second, but Federer broke straight back with a brilliant passing shot down the line.
Federer lost his way in the tiebreaker. He saved two set points at 6-3 but Wawrinka leveled matters with a clinical smash after Federer returned his serve too high.
"I think he really found his range and started to hit bigger, deeper," Federer said. "He gave me a couple cheap points in the first couple sets which he later on really didn’t give me anymore."
Federer was seeking his 22nd Masters trophy. The 32-year-old Swiss has lost finals against Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells and to Lleyton Hewitt at Brisbane.
"You must see the positive side. Try not to be disappointed or frustrated," Federer said. "What I see is that if I’m in that position again, if I keep trying as I did, at a certain point it’s going to go my way."