The two friends have not met on court for more than two years now, which is a mind-boggling duration for two of the biggest stars in the game. Since the last time they met, Murray has hired Ivan Lendl, won two Grand Slams, and beat Roger Federer to claim an Olympic gold medal.
The big question hiding like an elephant in the corner is whether Murray's recent success will translate over to his rather uncompetitive rivalry with Nadal. Rafa currently has a 13-5 head-to-head edge against his Scottish friend and their ensuing matches figure to be intriguing -- whenever those do finally occur.
While that continuing rivalry is still anticipated, the sudden emergence of the 28-year-old Stanislas Wawrinka deserves serious attention. Wawrinka is a player that has lived under the monumental shadow of Roger Federer throughout his otherwise respectable playing career.
Known for his likability and spirit, Wawrinka made headlines in 2012 when he made surprisingly negative comments about Federer's commitment to the Davis Cup. He then backed up those assertions by going out and laying absolutely everything on the line for his country.
During a Davis Cup tie against Czech Republic in 2013, Wawrinka participated in a grueling doubles contest that transformed into the longest match in the history of the competition. He followed that up with a heartbreaking loss against Tomas Berdych in singles, which left him in tears during the post-match press conference.
The Swiss, minus their star player Roger Federer, ended up losing the tie and were subsequently ousted from the tournament. At that time, few would have guessed that Wawrinka's career would have blossomed so completely after such bitter disappointment. However, that is precisely what has occurred.
Picking up momentum throughout the last six months, Wawrinka crested into the Australian Open and now possesses the world's No. 3 ranking as well as the No. 1 ranking in Switzerland.
With Wawrinka's form improving, Federer clearly realized his chance to finally win the Davis Cup might never be better. The 17-Slam winner rejoined the Swiss Davis Cup team last weekend against Serbia after not appearing for the team at all in 2013.
Together again, Federer and Wawrinka led a Swiss team that edged the Serbs by a score of 3-2 and consequently moved forward in what could be a historic campaign to win their first-ever title. This was only the second time since 2004 that Federer played in the opening round of the Davis Cup for his country.
While the Swiss Davis Cup quest will surely capture the tennis world's attention as it crescendos, there's arguably another potential matchup that has supplanted Murray vs. Nadal on the men's professional tour. That would of course be Federer vs. Wawrinka, and hopefully in a Grand Slam.
In their history, Federer has a decided edge against his countryman -- 15 wins against 1 loss. But last year, the two played an extremely tight match in Indian Wells (their most recent meeting) that was decided by a score of 7-5 in the decisive third set.
After some relatively unfriendly public exchanges between the two regarding the Davis Cup, it's unlikely that Wawrinka has completely forgotten that Federer abandoned the Swiss team in 2013. Federer's recent presence against Serbia may have repaired some of the lingering ill-will, but a singles match featuring the two would still make for riveting entertainment.
Teammates or not, there can be no doubting that Wawrinka would like nothing more than to cement his No. 1 ranking in Switzerland with a win over Federer. Such a victory would officially install Wawrinka as the heir to the Swiss throne, as well as indicate that his full ascension could occur sooner than later.
For now, the Swiss will likely embrace camaraderie as they plod toward the Davis Cup final. Federer has already announced that he will participate in the next round of the tournament against Kazakhstan.
While this new-found team spirit will undoubtedly assist the Swiss in their mission, the simmering tension between Federer and Wawrinka can't have been fully erased. There's some unfinished business between the two, and the court of play is the only place it can be decided.
Andrew Prochnow is a derivatives trader by day and a tennis buff by night. Tweet him at @AndrewProchnow.
- Sports & Recreation
- Roger Federer
- Stanislas Wawrinka
- Andy Murray
- Rafael Nadal