Wawrinka Ends Final Drought In Rotterdam
Swiss to face Monfils for the title
More than 20 months after reaching his 28th tour-level final at Roland Garros in 2017, Stan Wawrinka defeated Kei Nishikori 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament to move into his 29th championship match on Saturday.
“This is a big relief for me,” said Wawrinka. “It’s my first final since the [knee] surgery, so to show I can still play at this level against the top players is very important for me.”
The 33-year-old, who required two left knee surgeries in August 2017, landed 35 winners, including eight aces, to triumph after two hours and 13 minutes. Wawrinka will be aiming to capture his second title in Rotterdam after beating Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych in back-to-back matches to lift the trophy in 2015.
“When you come back from a surgery like that, you need to be patient with yourself. You look to start to win matches and gain confidence,” said Wawrinka. “I think my level is there physically and tennis-wise. If I stay focused and do the right things, I think I’m going to get back to a good place.”
The three-time Grand Slam champion will meet Gael Monfils in Sunday's final. Wawrinka leads Monfils 3-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, but the pair have met just once in the past eight years, at 2017 Roland Garros, with the Swiss triumphing in straight sets.
"We practise together a lot and we’re really close friends," said Wawrinka. "We’ve said it would be nice to play against each other in a final, so tomorrow will be special for both of us."
Wawrinka raced into a 2-0 lead at the Ahoy Rotterdam, claiming the opening break of the match with a crafty short return and a well-struck forehand passing shot down the line. The Swiss soon doubled his advantage, dominating rallies with his forehand before moving up the court to rush his opponent into errors. Despite surrendering one break of serve, Wawrinka broke for a third time with his ninth winner, an angled crosscourt backhand, to take the opening set after 37 minutes.
Nishikori responded emphatically in the second set, moving into a 4-0 lead of his own after finding success attacking Wawrinka's backhand in crucial moments. Wawrinka held firm, recovering one of the two breaks after finding further success bringing Nishikori to the net off his return. But the Japanese No. 1 soon levelled the match, holding serve to love at 5-4 with a driven cross-court backhand winner.
In a tense third set, both men held serve with relative ease until Nishikori served to stay in the match at 4-5. After ripping a forehand winner to complete an impressive service hold in the previous game, Wawrinka continued to dictate points with his forehand. From 30/30, the Swiss fired his 34th and 35th winners, both on his forehand side, to book his place in the championship match.
Nishikori was bidding to reach his second ATP Tour final of the season, following his title run at the Brisbane International (d. Medvedev) last month. The Japanese No. 1 overcame Medvedev in three sets to snap a nine-match losing streak in tour-level championship matches.
Did You Know?
This was only the third tour-level semi-final Wawrinka has contested since reaching the 2017 Roland Garros final (l. to Nadal). The Swiss reached two semi-finals in 2018, falling to Mirza Basic in Sofia and Martin Klizan in St. Petersburg.