Wawrinka Sets Sinner Semi-final Showdown In Antwerp
Former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka let slip a match point in the second set of his quarter-final against former World No. 6 Gilles Simon on Friday at the European Open. But the Swiss star remained calm and found some of his best tennis to reach the semi-finals in Antwerp, his first trip to the last four on the ATP Tour since making the Rotterdam final in February.
Wawrinka, the fourth seed, broke Simon’s serve on five of his seven opportunities to advance past the Frenchman 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-2 after two hours and 14 minutes. The 34-year-old is competing for the first time since the US Open, where he made the quarter-finals (l. to Medvedev).
"I expected [a tough match]," Wawrinka said. "I'm really happy with the level today, the way I was playing. [I was] serving well, I was staying strong mentally... I'm really happy with the match."
The 16-time tour-level champion now leads Simon 5-3 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. This was their first clash since 2016 Shanghai.
Throughout the match, Wawrinka put his shotmaking skills in full display, ripping winners every which way as he maintained his position on the baseline. But Simon continuously tried to put the Swiss in awkward positions.
The Frenchman’s broke and then served for the second set, but could not close it out. And it appeared Wawrinka would ride that momentum to a tie-break victory to clinch the match. But Simon showed his swift movement to hold off Wawrinka’s aggression at 5/6, eventually forcing a decider.
Wawrinka shrugged off any disappointment he felt, though, breaking immediately to start the third set and saving the only break point he faced in the final frame to move on. In the semi-finals, he will face #NextGenATP sensation Jannik Sinner, who battled past 2018 Delray Beach titlist Frances Tiafoe in three sets earlier in the day.
Wawrinka learned firsthand how talented Sinner is at the US Open, where the teen pushed the three-time Grand Slam champion to four sets. The duo shared on social media that following the event, they practised together in Monte-Carlo.
"I really think at that time he was playing really well. He's playing powerful from the baseline on both sides. He's a great player already. He's young and he can improve a lot, but he's already tough to beat," Wawrinka said. "It was a tough match at the time [of the US Open]. I expect the same tomorrow."