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Stan and his Frenchies!

So, you all know already how I feel about the Stan/Benoît ship. It’s what got me into writing tennis fic in the first place; I will always and forever love it tremendously, write it, and read each and every fic that everyone writes in it.

But at the same time, I’m totally not an OTP-er, and Stan is pretty much my fandom bicycle. (Along with Rafa.) I’ll read him shipped with anyone! (I take that back. Not Nick Kyrgios or Donna Vekic, for diverse reasons.) He’s so friendly with almost everyone on tour, and has such flirty touchy-feely banter with people, that how can you not have ship-goggles when you see him?

(See for example: Roger & Stan’s celebrations after winning Olympics doubles gold and the Davis Cup title (and just them in general). Novak pinching Stan’s butt as he passed Stan during an interview (and other bromantic moments, as well as Stan teasing him by giving him a mini version of the famous shorts). Stan absolutely hosing Ferru down with champagne after a final they played against each other. Stan’s constant smiley flirty banter with French-speaking umpires. Stan cuddling Seve and dipping him in a dramatic hug after Davis Cup. All the horsing around and intimate looks and hilarious moments and cuddles and celebratory hugs he and Magnus do. ETC.)

SOOOO. I recently donated in the Fight Back Fic auction, and decided to ask for a fic of either Stan/Jo or Stan/Gaël. Since they’re such rarepairs, my writer asked for me to talk a bit about their relationships, and thus this squee post/ship primer was born! :)

Stan and the Frenchies!

Stan is from the French-speaking part of Switzerland, near the French border, and has been close with his French contemporaries since they were kids. Gaël summed it up in 2014 when asked about his best friends in the locker room: “I have Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet and Stan Wawrinka. Why? Because we have known each other since we were 12 years old and I know we are true friends so it's nice to have them.” Out of this fivesome, I’d say Stan is closest to Gaël and Jo (thus my shipping them, lol).

Let’s start with Stan/Gaël.

(Separate chairs when we’re competing in an exhibition? Nah, who needs them!)

Stan and Gaël have always been close. Perhaps it helped that both were seen as headcases who weren’t maximizing their talent; mostly it seems to be a personality thing, though. Gaël is a really happy, laughing, sunny-natured guy, and Stan has a wickedly dry and a bit sarcastic sense of humor. They were always to be seen practicing with each other at tournaments. (This is before Stan got to the next level and started practicing with Novak/Rafa/Fed/etc. a lot of the time.)

Here they are at a practice, for example, all over each other. :)

Here they are after a practice, taking a sweaty selfie:

Some more practice photos:

Occasionally Stan would get distracted, because Stan has always and forever been obsessed by his phone:

In 2009, they went to Disneyland Paris together (and played doubles against Mickey and a kid).

Not even playing each other could break them apart. (This from AO 2011, a match Stan won.)

Even after Stan won his first Slam and became Hot Stuff, though, he and Gaël still were smiley friends:

Sometimes they look at each other with great intensity in their eyes:

Sometimes they are happily hug-smushing:

In summer 2014, Stan was supposed to do an event for his sponsor Evian, in which he would fly from England (where he was getting ready for Wimbledon) to Zurich for a couple of days and play tennis with junior players and fans. But he came down with a fever and his doctors didn’t want him to fly, so who did he ask to step in and cover for him? Gaël of course! Gaël flew over and did the whole event for him, because that’s what buddies are for.

Stan was appropriately grateful: “I was very happy to play against my fans in Zurich and I am very disappointed to have to stay in bed now. To accept this just a few days before the start of a Grand Slam tournament is very frustrating. I follow the advice of my doctors and hope to recover as quickly as possible to get fit for Wimbledon in time. I would like to thank my friend Gaël very much, that he will help me, "Wawrinka said.”

Here they are in late 2014 happily contemplating their imminent meeting in a Davis Cup Final:

And then there’s the Davis Cup story!

So, France and Switzerland were meeting in the 2014 Davis Cup Final. Both teams were SUPER into it and wanted the trophy badly. This was shortly after Fed had just pulled out of the World Tour Finals with a bad back, and nobody was sure how fit he’d be. Also, Stan still had the reputation of being a bit flaky sometimes, so nobody was sure if he’d come through. France had a very strong team and was playing at home.

Well, Stan captained the team to victory, and in the aftermath he said a couple things that pissed some of the French off a bit. As US Today reported: “During the tie, Wawrinka had been saying the French were yapping too much about the final, but the Swiss made the final salvo by “[letting] our rackets talk on the court.” At another point, Wawrinka had joked to L’Equipe that the celebratory champagne bottles had been put in the French locker room, but quickly had to be changed to the Swiss room after Federer’s Sunday morning win.”

This annoyed the French press, and also some of the French players. Richard Gasquet most of all. It came to a head in the bathroom (of all places!) after the tie. Stan was chatting to Julien Benneteau (why were you chatting to Julien in the bathroom, Stan? Who knows), when Richie, Gilles, Jo, and some French staff confronted him. It wasn’t a fight or anything (Julien said it was “direct and honest”), but it was a disagreement in which the French, mostly Richie, are said to have let Stan know they didn’t appreciate his comments.

Who stepped in and played peacemaker? Why, Gaël of course! He mediated between his team and his friend, and patched it up. Stan apologized for hurting the French team’s feelings.

Since then, Stan and Gaël continue to be super cute with each other:

(They totally look like boyfriends here to me! Look at the way their bodies are turned towards each other and their knees are touching. <3 And yes, I ship Serena/Caro too.)

In August 2015, Stan played matchmaker in finding Gaël a new coach. (source) Gaël is notoriously hard to coach, and people are always saying things like “oh, if only he’d maximized his talent, he’d have several Slams by now! Most talented non-Slam winner ever! It’s such a pity he hasn’t ever been able to use his talent properly!” (etc.) So, Gaël was looking for a new coach, and Stan wanted to help. They were listing potential names, and Gaël mentioned that one coach he’d really like was Mikael Tillström, but he’d asked him a couple years ago and Mikael said no; Gaël didn’t want to ask again and just get rejected. So Stan bustled off and talked to Magnus, who is business partners with Mikael at the Good To Great Academy, and long story short, Stan ended up going back to Gaël and being all “try again now ;)”.[Stan is used to the ‘cajole the coach you want into coaching you’ thing, as he had to work on Magnus for a couple years before Magnus finally gave in. And look where they’ve gone together!!] Tillström and Gaël have been a great fit and hopefully Tillström’s able to help Gaël unlock the full potential of his talent.

Gaël had a great year in 2016 – thanks Tillström! At the USO, he got to the semifinals and nearly knocked out Djokovic. Here’s Stan watching his match before his own SF vs Kei (because of course you’re going to watch your friend’s match, even though you kinda should be focusing on your own! <3) [Hey, it didn’t hurt Stan – he won the whole shebang! Avenging Jo and Gaël, Novak’s QF and SF opponents.]

And here’s Stan snapping a picture of Gaël practicing (not sure if they were practicing together that time or if Stan was just wandering around the courts and was like HEYA Gaël, let me Snapchat you now xD):

In fact, Gaël had such a great year that he made the World Tour Finals for the very first time. This obviously provided him and Stan with plenty of opportunities to hang out together and be super cute.

Here’s a video (sorry, don’t know how to embed) of them on Opening Night of the WTFs, on their way to the formal dinner. There are plenty of empty seats on this boat, but of course Gaël and Stan are sitting right next to each other and having a chat. :) Stan is cheeky and films Gaël during his interview, making Gaël laugh, and Gaël tells the interviewer that he and Stan are “good friends, very close friends” and go out to dinner together at tournaments whenever they can. :)

They also hung out together in the background of the WTFs group selfie:

And did promotional shots together:

And took cute selfies together:

And posed with champagne together:

And posted the receipts all over social media.

(Leading a fan to remark “I totally want to read a fic with Gael n Stan on the town in London, rocking those suits & dropping their Hs French style.” Which I am also totally on board with, because yes.)

They also practiced with each other, of course!

Later in the week, Stan wasn’t able to concentrate fully on his own practice because he kept sneaking looks at Gaël’s match!

Here are their coaches, Magnus and Tillström, hanging out together and wishing their charges luck. :)

Stan and Gaël continue to practice with each other. Here they are preparing for the Australian Open just a couple weeks ago, hanging out together while their coaches (who are also friends, as I mentioned) hang out together too. :)

And in Gaël’s 4R match against Rafa at this year’s Australian Open, he was pointing to his head after winning the third set, just like Stan always does! IT’S CONTAGIOUS.

I close this section with one final picture of Stan and Gaël being super-cute together. :D


Now that you’ve seen why I ship Stan/Gaël, let me tell you about some of the things I’d love to read about them! :D

Obviously anything on my general likes list applied to their particular relationship. I am the biggest fan of friends-to-lovers and first-time fic that you will ever see, so I’d definitely enjoy that. They’ve been friends for such a long time! I’m equally intrigued by a fic that had them fall in love back when they were both “wasting their talent” journeymen, or one that’s more recent, since Stan’s ascent. How do they make the switch from friends to lovers? What happens to make the POV character realize his feelings? Do they keep up the teasing and banter even as they fall into bed together?

Another general like I’ll give a particular shout-out to is coming-out stories, because along with friends-to-lovers and first-times that’s another trope I will always always enjoy. :) Whether that coming out is to oneself, a friend, or the whole wide world.

(For more general likes, see the opening section to any of my exchange letters. Here’s one.)

Specific prompts for Stan/Gaël:

• Stan and Gaël play each other in a Slam final! (Or are preparing to.) What happens? Is this the catalyst for a post-match first kiss in the locker room? Are they already in a relationship and banter in bed that morning about sabotaging each other? Do they kiss at the net/come out in the post-match interview? Is the loser genuinely, genuinely happy for the winner?
• Gaël thanks Stan for finding him a coach. In whatever form those thanks might take. ;)
• Any fic inspired by the Davis Cup episode, with Gaël coming to Stan’s rescue in the bathroom.
• Locker room kisses, either keeping it on the down-low or out and proud.
• Five times someone suspected Stan & Gaël might be together, and one time someone figured it out for sure. ;)
• Fic version of Stan & Gaël's adventures at the WTFs!
• A Stan/Gaël practice, with banter and forfeits (they seem to like pushups as their forfeits, on court at least ;)) and driving their coaches crazy.
• Gaël attempting to pry Stan away from his phone. ;)


Now Stan & Jo have a more complicated dynamic than Stan/Gaël. This wasn’t the case until relatively recently! Stan & Jo used to be super-close, just like Stan & Gaël. See the quote up above from Gaël about how they’d all been friends since they were like twelve.

Some pictorial evidence of Stan & Jo being buddies over the years:

During these years, Jo was the best player within this friendship-group of Stan and the Frenchies. These things are always a bit blurry, and Richie came close at times, but Jo was the Slam finalist, Jo the one who had beaten every member of the Big 4 in a Slam, Jo the one who on his best day could beat anyone on Earth. If you had been told to pick one of them to win a Slam, most people would’ve picked Jo. (A few people might have picked Gaël, but those people have never had their heart broken by his brilliant inconsistency.)

It was Jo, first and foremost, who always seemed like he (and the hungry French public) felt he should’ve had a Slam already.

And then things suddenly changed.

Stan lost to Novak in the fourth round of the 2013 Australian Open after playing the match of his life. Instead of being crushed and spiraling into depression, he found a new belief in himself out of the disappointment of that match; he moved forward convinced that with hard work he could transcend his past top level and bring down the big guys. When Magnus came on board that April, things began to go up, and up, and up. Stan began to find consistency and mental steel that he had never located before. His 2013 French Open match against Richie – in which he came back from two sets to love down and hit around 100 winners (I can’t find the exact number right now but it was right around there), making his first RG quarterfinal, was phenomenal.

And then he won a Slam.

In the space of a year, Stan had transformed from another Gaël – very talented, no one would ever deny that, but never able to put everything together to challenge consistently – to a Slam champion. While it doesn’t seem to have changed his relationship with Gaël, his relationship with Jo does seem to have come under some strain.

See for example Jo’s comments shortly after Stan’s first Slam, in which he told L’Equipe “If Stan can win a slam, then I deserve one too” (not my translation, but the one that English-speaking journos have used) and said that he wouldn’t trade his career for Stan’s. You could argue that he just meant that he preferred his long standard of excellence over Stan’s one moment of brilliance (although really would anybody refuse to trade when they’d get a Slam in exchange?), but I don’t think it’s reading too much into it to see a hint of jealousy there. And a bit of confusion, maybe, as the tables were so rapidly turned.

Still, it was only one Slam. My strong guess is that Jo privately salved his jealousy by telling himself that it was mostly a fluke, because of Rafa’s injury in the final. And they had been friends for a long time; even if there was a bit of extra competitive tension there, they were still friends. See for example this grinning practice pic Jo tweeted in April 2014, a couple months later:

And then later that year there was Davis Cup, and the whole heartbreaking spectacle of being humiliated by the Swiss team in their own home stadium, in front of what should have been a home crowd (but was stacked with Swiss fans who had made the trip). And that led to the bathroom incident. Richie was the ringleader in that and the one most pissed with Stan, but reading between the lines Jo seems to have been at his elbow.

But still they were friends! Even despite the tension. See this practice pic, from Monte Carlo 2015:

A couple months after that last picture, they met in the semifinals at the French Open. Stan had just beaten Fed in the quarterfinals and was riding high (he hardly ever beats Fed!! this was huge). Jo, meanwhile, was in the semifinals at Roland Garros, only one single solitary match away from the final. The final, at his home Slam; it must have been everything he ever dreamed of, really. He was already a French star, but an appearance in the final (let alone a title!) would’ve made him a household name.

And Stan beat him, and went on to win the title with almost surely the best performance of his career.

Not only had Stan taken away Jo’s dreams of a RG final, he was now a two-Slam winner. If Jo had previously secretly thought of Stan’s Slam as a fluke, he couldn’t do that now. Not when Stan had beaten a healthy Fed and Novak to take this one. Not when Stan played like that in the final.

Still, Stan and Jo had been friends for a long time! They weren’t enemies now. But the dynamic has definitely changed. I haven’t seen any friendly grinning practice pics since RG 2015. (Not saying for sure that there haven’t been any, but they used to be always around.) No more the fun times like in May 2013 where there was an interminable Berdych-Murray match on before Jo & Stan’s, and it was like midnight or later, and Jo and Stan were just hanging out in the locker room browsing Twitter and joking around together and trying to stay awake (“no coffee after 10,” Stan plaintively tweeted a journalist who suggested it).

By the time Stan and Jo faced off in the quarterfinals of this Australian Open – with Stan having just won the US Open and now a three-time champion, while Jo had a difficult time with injuries last year – it was generally acknowledged that their relationship was not what it once was.

AND THEN there was the crazy drama that happened after the first set in that match, which if you missed it, hoo boy. Basically, the first set was very close, and then Stan won it in tiebreak, and –

Which is, basically, something like –

“Are you looking at me?”
“You’re looking at me.”
“No, I’m not. You’re looking at me. Did I look at you once?”
“Yeah, you did.”
“No, I didn’t. You’re looking at me.”


Afterwards, Jo said this:

And Stan said this:

So. Here we are. Stan has the upper hand in their on-court relationship at the moment. Their off-court relationship, previously warm and close, has turned distinctly more frosty over the three years since Stan first passed Jo in prominence and won his first Slam. Methinks that there is much room for fic within this angsty world! :D

(Of course, I am a big fan of happy endings so I would love fic in which Jo and Stan worked it out and became close again, either as friends or lovers. :D Jo winning a Slam might go a looooong way towards mellowing him out again.)

I’d love to read anything about them, really. It could be set back before Stan was Stan the Man, and they were just buddies. Or in that time that everything became topsy-turvy and Stan won his first Slam. Or during that Davis Cup. Or before/after the RG 2015 match. Or Stan & Jo having it out/laughing over that changeover exchange from this AO. Anything from their history – or happy-ending futurefic - would be great. :)

The end!

Date: 2017-02-27 08:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] krisherdown.livejournal.com
So I just discovered this primer due to your gift. I haven't even gotten to the fic yet because my eyes were caught on the fact a primer exists for Stan/Gael & Stan/Jo.

While I'd been indifferent about Stan/Jo until this recent drama emerged, I never understood the lack of Stan/Gael. I definitely remember video after video of Stan calling Gael his best friend (sometimes Jo mentioned in older vids but Gael is constant). The Davis Cup dramaz - and Gael The Mediator - was just asking for something. Gael's that guy who's always there when Stan gets into messes with other players and that's why he's such a special flower.

Date: 2017-02-28 05:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] polkad0tting.livejournal.com
I've always loved Stan/Gaël!! And the fic is so lovely. I know you'll enjoy it. :)

Gael's that guy who's always there when Stan gets into messes with other players and that's why he's such a special flower.



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