Three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka makes his European Open debut in Antwerp on Wednesday night when he takes on Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez for a place in the quarter-finals.
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Stan Wawrinka and Feliciano Lopez clash for the first time in over two years with a spot in the European Open quarter-finals on the line in Antwerp on Wednesday nigh.
Out of the three ATP indoor tournaments taking place this week, the European Open in Antwerp is arguably the event with the most intrigue surrounding it, with Wawrinka joined in the draw by former World No. 1 Andy Murray, top seed Gael Monfils and home hope David Goffin, along with French entertainers Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet and rising teenage sensation Jannik Sinner. Wawrinka is on course for a quarter-final showdown with Tsonga and semi-final encounter with Monfils if the draw goes according to seeding, while a potential final with Murray is also a possibility – and if all those matches do indeed come to fruition, we will be in for a thrilling week in the Belgian port city.
It’s been a slow grind back towards the top of the tennis mountain for Wawrinka since he cut his 2017 season short after Wimbledon to undergo two rounds of surgery on his knee. The Swiss returned for the start of the 2018 season, but was in and out of action as he continued to recover from the surgery, ending last year at No. 66 in the world. However, 2019 has been much more fruitful for Wawrinka, who has climbed back into the top 20 and is starting to show more glimpses of the sort of tennis that saw him win three Grand Slam titles at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and U.S. Open from 2014-16 and finish runner-up at the 2017 French Open.
Wawrinka brings a 27-17 record for the season coming into Antwerp this week, with his highlights including finishing runner-up in Rotterdam and making quarter-finals at Roland Garros and the U.S. Open, where he scored a retirement win over Novak Djokovic before going down in four sets to the on-fire Daniil Medvedev. The 34-year-old is back up to No. 18 in the world, but Wawrinka is still searching for his first hardcourt title since lifting the 2016 U.S. Open – will he put himself in a position to contend for the Antwerp silverware this week?
Feliciano Lopez stands in his way in the opening round on Wednesday night. The Spaniard is into the European Open second round for the second straight year, beating Cameron Norrie in straight sets in the opening round earlier this week, while he also beat Frances Tiafoe in the first round last year before falling to Jan-Lennard Struff in a deciding set tiebreak.
The 38-year-old Lopez has been a mainstay on the ATP World Tour for over two decades now and at Wimbledon last season, he surpassed Roger Federer’s record for most consecutive Grand Slam appearances, with his current mark after the 2019 U.S. Open standing at a staggering 71. A seven-time ATP champion, four-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist, four-time ATP Masters 1000 semi-finalist and four-time Davis Cup champion for Spain, Lopez has put together an outstanding career, peaking at No. 12 in the world in 2015 – and he’s still a dangerous player well into the twilight of his career, winning the prestigious Queen’s Club title earlier this year, along with partnering Andy Murray to the doubles title. Lopez also made the third round of the U.S. Open at his last tournament, losing to Medvedev in four sets like Wawrinka.
Wawrinka leads their head-to-head 4-3, but they haven’t played since Lopez prevailed on the grass of Queen’s Club in 2017 – and before that, their last clash was in 2014 at Wimbledon. Lopez’s lefty swinging serve is dangerous indoors, but if Wawrinka can continue to build on what was a great U.S. Open, he should be able to see off the Spanish veteran and reach the Antwerp quarter-finals.