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NEIL HARMAN

Neil Harman of the London Times

If the cameras aren't fixed on the eight singles players contesting the Barclays ATP World Tour finals at London's O2 arena this week, you can bet your bottom dollar the person most prominently in focus will be the contestant's coach. Their names and faces have become as familiar as Rafael Nadal's ferocity, Roger Federer's forehand or Novak Djokovic's fortitude.

This week, though, one man will be in two corners, if such a feat of physical dexterity is possible. Severin Luthi is the Switzerland Davis Cup captain and he also happens to be every much a confidant of Stanislas Wawrinka as he is of Federer. Wawrinka is appearing in his first end-of-season championships, Federer an extraordinary twelfth in succession. Luthi will be there for both of him and yet what makes the man tick is largely unknown in the game, for he is not one to speak unless spoken to and even then, he says very little.

There are certain coaches who enjoy the limelight; they feel it is their obligation to converse or push themselves forward; sometimes a player will like to work with a lugubrious coach for it takes the pressure of them to have to explain themselves, day upon day. Luthi is definitely in the opposite category, a man of few words, no headlines, not a single press conference [other than those involving Switzerland and the Davis Cup] and yet whose understanding of the game is clearly something upon which two very fine players dote.

Wawrinka employed the Swede Magnus Norman, the former French Open finalist in April, a partnership that has undoubtedly flourished in this breakthrough year for the 28 year old. Norman is happy to have Luthi there for a common purpose, to bring the best from 'Stan.' When Wawrinka needs a second opinion, someone else he can trust, Luthi has always been on call.

"He [Severin] knows well the tennis, he is a good coach, you don't have many people talking about him, but the fact he is still with Roger means he really knows tennis," the world No.8 said. "For me he is a good help and I was happy because with Magnus, they are good together, Severin has helped him a lot to know me faster and better and when I'm doing weeks alone, Severin is there for me.

"I'm really happy with my team. I have a fitness trainer in Pierre Pagannini, who also works with Roger. We do all the big preparation when I'm not at tournaments, we text almost every day, we talk a lot and since many years he's been helping with my schedule. I don't need a big ream like a lot of people to survive, I prefer a small team."

Wawrinka is relishing the chance to play in London for the first time, a man who came to global prominence this year with two astonishing - though ultimately disappointing performances in grand slam tournaments, against Djokovic at both the Australian and US Opens. In the latter he reached his first major semi final, a massive stepping stone to these finals. If the cameras are not on his strokes or his coach, they may be on his tattoos. He has a couple. "One is for Alexia, my daughter. I had it two years ago, it's funny because everyone talks about this because of the timing, I did it and I started to play better. I have one from Samuel Beckett [the playwright] .I'm looking for a new one. I'm not rushing with it. I need to find what exactly I want and one day you wake up and the idea will come to me."




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