BILL DWYRE

The No. 1 Swiss tennis player? It's not who you think

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Li Na, Stanislas Wawrinka

Australian Open champions Li Na and Stanislaw Wawrinka pose for a photo at Indian Wells on Sunday. (Nicola Arzani / ATP Tour / March 9, 2014)

— In '12, he lost five-setters to Mardy Fish and the U.S. in the Davis Cup; and to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the French Open.

— In '13, he lost a seven-hour-plus five-setter in doubles to the Czech Republic in Davis Cup play; a five-hour five-setter to Novak Djokovic in the Australian after winning the first two sets; and another long struggle to Djokovic in the U.S. Open semis.

Along the way, he had suffered through five straight losses in ATP tournament finals before finally getting his second tour title at Casablanca in 2010. Also along the way, he had been described by a British newspaper as being "as clumsy on the court as Federer is graceful."

Still, he persevered. He was making a good living, got married, had a daughter. He kept plugging away.

And then, with few in tennis seeing it coming, he beat Djokovic in the quarterfinals at this year's Australian. He won it in the fifth set, 9-7. It was the first win after 14 straight losses to the Serbian star, and he followed that up by beating Nadal in the final, his first win against the No. 1 Spaniard in 13 matches.

Sadly, even in Wawrinka's finest moment, there was a possible taint. Nadal was clearly injured during the match.

So a little cloud remains over Wawrinka's head.

Since 2006, which spans 33 Grand Slam tournaments, Federer, Djokovic and Nadal have failed only four times to win those majors — Andy Murray won at the U.S. Open in 2012 and at Wimbledon in 2013; Juan Martin del Potro won the U.S. Open in '09; and Wawrinka won this year's Australian.

Is Wawrinka just another momentary interloper or the real deal?

He plays No. 29 Andreas Seppi of Italy on Monday, and it has only just begun. Also on his side of the draw are Federer, Nadal and Murray, against whom he has a total of eight wins, six of them over Murray.

Indian Wells has become a Stan Wawrinka proving ground.

Late Sunday morning, he sat in a garden area on the grounds, chatting with a reporter at a table next to Li Na, the Australian Open women's singles champion, who was eating lunch. A photographer, seeing a special opportunity, asked if they would pose together.

Li Na set her noodles aside and the photo op became reality.

She didn't say it, but she clearly knew she was posing with the No. 1 Swiss tennis player, not that other guy.

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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