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Wawrinka vs Pouille tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Former Monte Carlo champion Wawrinka set for must-watch first-round clash

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 13 Apr 2019
  • Stan Wawrinka faces Lucas Pouille in the first round of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters
  • Wawrinka vs Pouille is live from Monte Carlo on Sunday at 2.30pm local/1.30pm BST
Stan Wawrinka (PA Sport)

Who will prevail in this first meeting of two unpredictable shotmakers as 2014 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters champion Stan Wawrinka takes on Lucas Pouille?

Former Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters champion Stan Wawrinka takes on Australian Open semifinalist Lucas Pouille in a must-watch first-round encounter on Sunday.

Wawrinka last played the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in 2017 (PA Sport)
Wawrinka is the only man beside 11-time champion Rafael Nadal and two-time winner Novak Djokovic to have captured the title at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters since Nadal won his first title in 2005, a statistic that only underlines how unbelievably difficult it is for anybody to break through at this tournament, where Nadal plays so well and where Djokovic is perpetually circling and pressing for the slightest chink in the Spaniard’s armour.

Wawrinka got his Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters win, his sole Masters 1000 Series title, in 2014, the same year he broke through to become a Grand Slam champion at the Australian Open, beating David Ferrer in the semifinals and Roger Federer in the final (Nadal lost in the quarterfinals to Ferrer, Djokovic in the semifinals to Federer). In three subsequent appearances, however, Wawrinka has only won back-to-back matches once, in 2016 when he made the quarterfinals before losing to Nadal, and his last appearance in 2017 saw him defeated in the round of 16 by Pablo Cuevas.

It wasn’t just the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters that Wawrinka missed in 2018 – he sat out much of the clay-court season except Rome, Geneva and the French Open (going 1-3) as he attempted to manage the difficult business of coming back from the two knee operations he underwent in the latter half of 2017. It’s been a stuttering, sometimes frustrating affair. Wawrinka is currently ranked world no. 35 – the highest he’s been ranked since last June – but his best tennis still seems to elude him much of the time. 

Wawrinka’s best result so far in 2019 was a runner-up finish in Rotterdam where he scored excellent victories over Milos Raonic, Denis Shapovalov and Kei Nishikori before falling to an inspired Gael Monfils; he also made the quarterfinals of Doha and Acapulco, losing to eventual champions Roberto Bautista Agut and Nick Kyrgios respectively. But he made little impact on the American hard courts, losing in straight sets to Federer in the third round of Indian Wells and to Filip Krajinovic in the first round of Miami.

That’s never been Wawrinka’s favourite part of the season, however. Clay is another matter. Could this be the time that we see the Swiss star returning to some of the superb form which won him the French Open in 2015?

The draw for the unseeded Wawrinka hasn’t been kind – but also could have been crueler. If he wins his first-round match on Sunday, he could face last year’s surprise French Open semifinalist Marco Cecchinato in the second, the out-of-form Marin Cilic in the third – but would be overwhelmingly likely to have to play Nadal in the quarterfinals.

First, though, Wawrinka has to negotiate his way past Australian Open semifinalist Lucas Pouille.

Lucas Pouille (PA Sport)
Currently ranked just a few places above Wawrinka at world no. 31, Pouille was ranked as high as world no. 10 in March 2018 after a number of strong results in 2017 – which included a semifinal run at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters – and a stellar start to 2018 which saw him win a title and reach two finals in the first two months of the year. But thereafter, Pouille’s 2018 failed to impress as he struggled with burn-out, and he ended the year outside the top 30. 

Teaming up with Amelie Mauresmo over the off-season in a bid to get back on track, Pouille’s 2019 started inauspiciously with a first-round defeat in Sydney, but in Melbourne it all came together as the talented Frenchman, after surviving what could have been an agonizing third-round defeat to Alexei Popyrin, went on to beat 11th seed Borna Coric and 16th seed Milos Raonic to make the semifinals of the Australian Open, the best Grand Slam result of his career and the only significant one since making Wimbledon and US Open quarterfinals in 2016.

However, Pouille was absolutely crushed by Djokovic in the semifinals, getting just four games, and hasn’t won a match since, losing to Marcos Baghdatis in Montpellier, Hubert Hurkacz at Indian Wells and Albert Ramos-Vinolas in Miami. Injury has played a part, but so has inconsistency, and none of it constitutes exactly ideal preparation for the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.

As aforementioned, Pouille was a semifinalist at this tournament in 2017, but he didn’t exactly have the toughest draw – the only seed he faced was Pablo Cuevas before losing to Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Elsewhere, Pouille is 100-57 on clay, but only 11-10 at Masters 1000 Series level.

This will be the first meeting between Wawrinka and Pouille, and it should be a tremendously watchable encounter between two players with so much flair and shotmaking appeal in their games. Wawrinka hits the heavier ball and has that dazzling one-handed backhand; Pouille is all creativity and flow, attacking the net beautifully. Neither player has any recent form to speak of on which to draw; both are totally unpredictable. But Pouille has played so badly since his Australian Open semifinal run, it feels impossible to pick him to win. Wawrinka to make the second round at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.  

Wawrinka vs Pouille Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tennis is live on Sunday at 2.30pm local/1.30pm BST

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Wawrinka vs Pouille tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Former Monte Carlo champion Wawrinka set for must-watch first-round clash

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