Magnus Normann is not just a former world No. 2, but one of the most outstanding coaches of this generation. The Swede helped guide Stan Wawrinka to three Grand Slam titles and third place in the Pepperstone ATP rankings.
After a period of separation, Norman reunited with Wawrinka last year. ATPTour.com spoke with the Swede ahead of the Australian Open about Wawrinka’s epic series of matches against Novak Djokovic at Melbourne Park, helping the Swiss find his best form and more.
It’s been 10 years since Stan and Novak kicked off a string of Australian Open matches. How fast has time passed since then?
It’s amazing, it looks like it was two years ago. You look back and you see he turned pro in 2002, 20 years ago, time flies. You have to make the most of it every day, that’s what I say to the young players coming in and what Stan says to the younger generation of Swiss players too. You’re 16 or 17 and then all of a sudden you’re 24 or 25. You have to make every day count.
Is Stan still playing because he enjoys the game and wants to take advantage of these moments?
I certainly think so. He loves training, life and preparation. He loves to play tennis and compete. He put a lot of effort into trying to come back after two difficult years with injuries. It’s not easy to come back, you see a lot of players struggling to find the level again. But Stan, the last couple of months he’s been really improving and he’s at the level that I’m seeing now [hit] The ball is fine and he is fit. That’s been his goal in the last few years he’s left, to try to compete and play at his best level.
When returning to this level, is it more physical or mental?
In his case, I think both. First, the physical injury to the foot, it took a lot of time. Then when you start playing tennis again, you’re glad you’re on the court but then you have to play again. This is when the mental part comes in. I admire his habit of working every day, and the work he does after so many years.
Is it almost fun now to see him still working hard despite how much he’s already accomplished?
In one way, yes. It will never be the same as it was 10 years ago. Our personalities have changed. But in a way, yeah, it’s more fun. Won 3 Grand Slams, Olympic gold, Davis Cup, amazing career. He basically won it all. From my point of view as a coach, I tell Stan he should play tennis when he wants to, when he feels good. Try to enjoy it as much as you can in the last couple of years, these are my inputs to it.
What’s next for Stan to not only play well, but also compete in the biggest tournaments?
I think he has tennis mentality, physical fitness and mentality. I’m happy where he is now. won [Casper] Ruud in Basel last year, he had match points against [Holger] Ron in Paris. These guys are some of the best, so I think he has everything to beat the big guys. Physically, as you get older, it takes a little longer to recover, so keep that in mind, and play and practice smarter.
What was the biggest difference when you first started with it?
It’s the same guy. He’s upped his game a lot, he can go to the net more, and his revenue is getting better every month now. We said that while training that day, he feels more comfortable making returns rather than blocking them. He has more variety in his game. He’s been moving really well the past two years.
What do you remember from that match against Novak in 2013?
Stan’s bullet-making abilities. He can play winners from anywhere on the field, from both the forehand and the backhand, whether he is in the back or inside the field. That he can compete with top players, like Novak, from the back of the field. This is what I remember from that match. When we started working together, he was a good player and so we talked about how we can not only play well and compete against these guys, but also beat these guys.
What was the key?
Try to use his physical abilities a little more. Even if he’s a playmaker, try to play the bigger points with more margins. Trust his physique to play longer rallies. Little things like this made all the difference in the end.
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How much has his fitness played a role in why he continues to be so successful?
It’s a big reason for sure. He has worked with Pierre Paganini for many years and it has paid off. A few good training blocks a year, don’t overtrain.
Do you still admire his shot-making talent?
Definitely. It would be difficult to train anyone after him. The way he plays and trains, he will never say no to practice. If I say ten more forehands, he’ll say okay, let’s do it.
What’s Stan’s craziest work ethic story?
I remember the first two years when we had some training blocks together. Most of the time we start with fitness and then fitness and tennis all together. Towards the end of the block, we’ll focus more on just tennis. I will always remember those masterclasses with Stan and Pierre where we had a few hours of fitness and then straight tennis.
What is your success at this point?
First of all, he still enjoys practice and competition. Also this is injury free. Being happy and loves to play tournaments.