Wawrinka Comeback Snaps Rublev Streak In Paris
No.12 seed Stan Wawrinka turned around a first-set rout to upset the in-form Andrey Rublev and grab the last spot in the Paris Rolex Masters quarter-finals.
Rublev, the fifth seed, had posted an ATP Tour-leading 40th win of the season in the second round, and looked set to add another scalp to his world-beating count as he raced to a 6-1 lead against Wawrinka. But the three-time Grand Slam winner responded emphatically to complete the turnaround 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 after an hour and 43 minutes.
“I think of course at the beginning he was playing faster than me, was playing better than me,” Wawrinka said in his post-match press conference. “It was tough for me to really find any solution when he's playing that well.
“I was still believing that I could change something in my game and play a little bit better.”
The Russian player is one of the most in-form players of the season, and clinched his Nitto ATP Finals spot after lifting his fifth trophy of the season at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna. He charged through his Paris opener, dropping just three games to Radu Albot to book his clash with Wawrinka.
Rublev carried all of that momentum into their late-night match-up in Paris, keeping the Swiss player's serve under pressure from the start. Rublev pushed Wawrinka to deuce in three of his four service games, and was rewarded with a break each time as he charged through the set, 6-1.
But the former World No.3 finally found his footing in the second set, and improved his first serve percentage from 69% to 78%, working his way back into the contest. He claimed his first break of the match at 4-3, and dodged two break points to take the set and send the contest into a decider.
Wawrinka continued to press as the match wound to a close, and a pair of service breaks bracketed the final set. Rublev fired a backhand into the net to end his winning streak at 11 consecutive matches, and send the former Paris semi-finalist back into the last eight.
“I didn't start great the match, and he took the confidence from me also,” said Wawrinka. “I think for me it was important to really focus on my serve. I start to serve better, to mix more, to get more free points, to start to push him a little bit more, put him on defense a little bit. That's when I knew I will have some occasion to break him. I'm really happy with the victory.”
Fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev awaits in the quarter-finals after the German needed three sets and three hours to fend off an inspired challenge from veteran Adrian Mannarino, 7-6(11), 6-7(7), 6-4.
“It's going to be a tough one, for sure,” Wawrinka said. “I lost to him in the Australian Open. Lost a few times to him already in the past. He's a tough player for me to play, so it's going to be interesting. I watched him a little bit tonight. He played also a long match. Hopefully I can deliver a great match tomorrow night.”
After edging through a marathon, nearly 16-minute tie-break in the opening set, Zverev arrived at match point in the second as they stayed deadlocked into another deciding tilt. This time it was the French lefty, looking for his first Masters 1000 quarter-final, who charged back to level the match.
But Zverev responded by hitting his spots on serve to fend off a Mannarino comeback, improving his winning percentages from 70% to 89% behind his first serve and from 29% to 50% on second serve. Zverev fired his seventh ace of the match to seal his spot in the Paris quarter-finals for the second time.