Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka meet for the twenty-third time on Sunday, as they battle for the BNP Paribas Open title.
Federer is contesting his seventh Indian Wells final, while Wawrinka is appearing in his first final in California. Wawrinka has emerged in the last few seasons as a big game player, but Federer still holds the aces against his compatriot, and goes in as the favourite to land a fifth Indian Wells title, his twenty-fifth Masters 1000 title, and the ninetieth title of an amazing career.
Here are four reasons why Federer will win walk away with the trophy on Sunday.
Straightaway, Federer has the advantage of being the much fresher of the two. The four-time champion has cruised through the rounds in straight sets, and has also had the luxury of an unexpected extra day off, following the withdrawal of Nick Kyrgios from their quarter final. Wawrinka on the other hand, has had to come through a couple of tough battles in the fourth round and the quarter final. He was stretched beyond two hours in each of the matches, needing final set tie breaks to see off lucky loser, Yoshihito Nishioka and Austria’s Dominic Thiem.
In total, Wawrinka has spent total of 503 minutes on court, while Federer has spent a significantly less 287 minutes; that’s a difference of 216 minutes. It is unlikely that Wawrinka will be tired, but most certainly, Federer’s 35-year-old legs will be thankful for the freshness as the great man goes after career title number 90.
Wawrinka has carved out of reputation of getting better as a tournament progresses, and he is again threatening an encore at Indian Wells, putting up his best performance of the week in his semi-final dispatch of Pablo Carreno-Busta. Federer though, is operating at a whole different level, playing his best tennis in recent years. Every component of his game is in excellent working order- the serve for one- he’s yet to be broken all tournament; the forehand is finding its spots, and most notably, the backhand, which has been Federer’s more vulnerable wing over the years has been absolutely lethal this week. If Rafael Nadal is being restricted to five games, Federer must be playing extremely well. He certainly is. When Federer is in form and playing well, there are very few that can live with him. He’s just got so much options and variety, and will hurt his opponents in all manner of ways.
In virtually every respect, Roger Federer has got history firmly in his favour heading into Sunday’s Indian Wells final. From a dominant head-to-head record against his opponent to his far better record at Indian Wells, Federer ticks almost all the boxes. Federer has won 19 of his 22 matches against Wawrinka, including six of his last seven. Federer’s Indian Well’s record is also far superior to Wawrinka’s. The great man is into his seventh final, looking to match Novak Djokovic’s record of five titles, while Wawrinka is in uncharted territory, contesting his first ever Indian Wells final. This is the first time the world number three has gone beyond the quarter finals at the first Masters 1000 event of the season. The one crumb of consolation for Wawrinka is that he won their only previous meeting in a final, in Monte Carlo in 2014. However, Federer has won enough big matches in recent times to dismiss any suggestions of a big-match frailty against his compatriot, with five of their last six meetings being semi-finals.
Federer’s overall record against Wawrinka is 19-3, but Wawrinka’s three victories have all been on clay. Federer has won all 13 meetings on hard courts. The reason for his dominance on quicker surfaces is not far-fetched. Wawrinka takes bigger cuts at the ball, and needs more time to unload on his huge groundstrokes. Federer takes the ball on a lot quicker, a game plan that has been very prominent this week. That will again be the game plan on Sunday.
“I have variation. I have an offensive mindset that's in my DNA. Sometimes for a player like Stan, he likes to have a bit more time and I can maybe rush him. But we'll see if that's possible tomorrow.”
It will be an exciting contest between the two Swiss, but in the end, I expect Federer to emerge with the title, and continue his remarkable comeback to the sport such a lengthy absence.