Wawrinka Battles Past Paire In Rotterdam

Seppi, Kukushkin advance into R2 on Monday

Stan Wawrinka got the better of his good friend Benoit Paire in a match of power-hitting on Monday night at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.

"It was difficult to play against a good friend and we played some good shots. Winning the first set was the key and I played with confidence in the second set," said Wawrinka. "Being back in Rotterdam is great. There is a great atmosphere here and [tournament director] Richard Krajicek is doing a great job to keep improving the tournament."

Wawrinka, the 2015 champion, was ultimately more consistent, saving three set points in the first set en route to a 7-6(4), 6-1 victory in 71 minutes. He will next face fourth-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic or Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.

"I feel good in general. I had a good off-season and took the time to get back in shape," said Wawrinka. "I now need matches to build my confidence, but I have to be patient with that. It was a long year to get back physically, but now I'm playing well."

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Paire broke serve for a 4-3 advantage, courtesy of consecutive groundstroke errors from Wawrinka, but the Swiss wild card saved a set point with an ace two games later at 30/40. Two further opportunities went begging for Paire on serve at 5-4 — a backhand error, and a clever play by Wawrinka that opened up the court for a winner.

In the tie-break, Wawrinka stepped inside the baseline to gain the momentum. After losing the opening game of the second set, he won the next six games to close out the match.

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Monday's evening session also saw No. 9 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili rally from down a set and a break to defeat Hyeon Chung 4-6, 7-6(1), 6-2. Although the Georgian was unable to serve out the second set at 5-3, he raised his level in the tie-break to even the match. The final set saw Basilashvili go on a five-game run and eventually wrap up the win after two hours and 17 minutes. 

Awaiting Basilashvili in the next round is the winner between Martin Klizan of Hungary and Marton Fucsovics of Hungary, who finished runner-up last week in Sofia (l. to Medvedev).

Other first-round matches on Monday saw Andreas Seppi survive a mid-match surge from qualifier Peter Gojowczyk to prevail 7-6, 3-6, 6-2, while Mikhail Kukushkin didn't drop serve in his 6-2, 7-6(4) win over home favourite Robin Haase.

Tuesday's night session features top seed Kei Nishikori of Japan squaring off against Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France, followed by second seed Karen Khachanov of Russia taking on local wild card Tallon Griekspoor. Raonic and Kohlschreiber open up the day session.

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