Stan Survives Evans Test In Indian Wells

Stan Wawrinka rallies for comeback win in the desert

Former finalist Stan Wawrinka had his mettle tested to kick off his 2019 BNP Paribas Open campaign, but the Swiss found a second gear to advance in Indian Wells.

Wawrinka overcame a dogged Daniel Evans in Friday's first round, needing two hours and nine minutes to prevail 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3. Fans were on their feet on Stadium 2 as the Swiss produced an impressive display to battle back from a set down. In what was an early candidate for match of the tournament, both competitors were dialed in from the baseline and refused to go down without a fight.

With his back against the wall at 2-2 0/40 in the deciding set, Wawrinka reeled off five straight points to hold and saved three more break chances at 3-all. And as Evans saw six break points come and go, his Swiss counterpart would immediately surge to a 5-3 lead and closed out the win with a hold to love.

"He's for sure a great player," said Wawrinka. "Also, this year he's playing a lot of matches and has a lot of confidence. He's won a lot of matches. He's always a tough player to play, for sure. You can see against other players. He always makes it difficult. 

"I think he's mixing it a lot, especially in conditions like today when it's windy like that. With his slice, he feels the ball really well. He's mixing his game, serve-and-volleying, sometimes coming in, sometimes not, passing well. It's always difficult to play against him."

Wawrinka and Evans have produced a pair of thrillers in their two FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters, with the Swiss previously triumphing in five sets at the 2016 US Open. Runner-up in 2017 (l. to Federer), he now owns a 23-10 record at the first ATP Masters 1000 event of the year. 

"I like the tournament," Wawrinka added. "I think in general the conditions are good for my game. A hard court and quite slow, I would say. You can really play your game. I think for me this year it's for sure special because I'm happy to be back."

Wawrinka, who missed the 2018 edition with a knee injury, will continue to push towards a Top 30 return when he faces 29th seed Marton Fucsovics in the second round on Sunday.

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A potential third-round encounter against countryman Roger Federer looms large for Wawrinka. Five-time champion Federer will open his campaign against Peter Gojowczyk after the German defeated Andreas Seppi 7-5, 6-4, converting five of 11 break chances.

In other action, qualifier Radu Albot continued his strong run of form after lifting his maiden ATP Tour trophy in Delray Beach. He routed Marius Copil 6-2, 6-2 in just 62 minutes.

Earlier in the day, 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals contestant Hubert Hurkacz ousted American wild card Donald Young 6-3, 6-3 and Steve Johnson came through an all-American clash against Taylor Fritz by the same score. The battle of Southern California natives lasted exactly one hour.

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