Stan Wawrinka attempts to set up a blockbuster quarter-final Swiss Indoors showdown against Roger Federer when he takes on rising star Frances Tiafoe in the second round in Basel on Thursday.
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Still in with an outside shot of qualifying for the ATP Finals in London, seventh seed Stan Wawrinka faces Frances Tiafoe for a place in the Swiss Indoors quarter-finals – and a shot at nine-time champion Roger Federer.
Wawrinka holds a 12-13 record in Basel, with his best results being a pair of semi-final finishes in 2006 and 2011, while his last appearance resulted in a quarter-final defeat to Mischa Zverev in 2016. Coming off a short turnaround from Sunday’s final against Andy Murray at the European Open in Antwerp, Wawrinka produced a convincing victory over Pablo Cuevas in his opening match, firing 10 aces, winning 28 of 31 points behind his first serve and not facing a break point in the 6-3 6-4 triumph.
It’s been a slow grind back towards the top of tennis 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 31-18 record for the season coming into Basel 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 that aforementioned retirement win over Djokovic before going down in four sets to the on-fire Daniil Medvedev. Wawrinka is up to No. 17 in the world after making the final of Antwerp last week, where he led by a set-and-a-break against Murray before succumbing in three, but that first title since knee surgery still eludes him. Could it come this week in Basel?
He’ll need to make it past Frances Tiafoe in order to get a chance to snap Federer’s 22-match winning streak at the tournament. The young American lost to Federer in straight sets in his only previous appearance in Basel in 2017, but he got his first win at the tournament on Wednesday, cruising past Dan Evans by a 6-4 6-2 scoreline.
Tiafoe enjoyed a breakout season last year as he won his maiden ATP World Tour title in Delray Beach, beating Juan Martin del Potro and Denis Shapovalov along the way, while he also made the fourth round in Miami, finished runner-up on the clay of Estoril and made the third round at Wimbledon, ending 2018 at No. 39 in the world. The 21-year-old had a brilliant start to 2019, reaching his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open and first Masters 1000 quarter-final in Miami, but before this week, he’d only won 13 other matches for the year, which shows he’s still very much a work in progress and is struggling with his consistency. Tiafoe did however make the quarter-finals in Antwerp last week, and with a win under his belt already in Basel, he’s set himself up nicely for a solid chance of the upset over Wawrinka.
In saying that, I’d be surprised if Wawrinka lost this one. The Swiss continues to impress after making the U.S. Open quarter-finals and at home, he should be able to dictate proceedings and force Tiafoe into uncomfortable positions. With a chance of qualifying for the ATP Finals still within his grasp, this is Wawrinka’s match to lose.