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Tour report: A day of firsts for Wawrinka and Vekic

Stanislas Wawrinka takes aim.
by Leigh Walsh
Tuesday 22 April 2014

The first week of the clay court season proper ended with a first ATP Masters 1000 title for Stanislas Wawrinka in Monte Carlo and first WTA title for Donna Vekic in Kuala Lumpur, while the Czech Republic and Germany advanced to the Fed Cup final. Wimbledon.com reports...

Stanislas Wawrinka’s decorated start to 2014 continued in Monte Carlo as he clinched his first ATP Masters 1000 title with a 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 victory over compatriot and close friend Roger Federer in the final. 

While most opponents offer a polite nod of the head as they brush past each other in the locker room, Federer and Wawrinka did things a little differently in the build up to the first all-Swiss men's final since Federer lost to Marc Rosset in Marseille 14 years earlier.

The duo, who clinched doubles gold together at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, warmed up and dined together in the hours leading up to Sunday’s final - the first in nine years not to feature eight-time champion Rafael Nadal, who fell to David Ferrer in the quarter-finals.

When the Davis Cup teammates took to court on a damp afternoon in the Principality, the pre-match niceties were put to one side as Federer went in search of a 22nd Masters 1000 crown and Wawrinka a first.

Federer entered the match with a 13-1 record over his compatriot and the early exchanges were in keeping with the formbook as the former world No.1 took the opening set 6-4.

Wawrinka had struggled in the past against Federer, winning just five sets in 14 meetings. But for the world No.3, 2014 has been about writing history rather than re-living it and he dug deep to edge the second set on a tie-break before running away with the third, 6-2.

“I did an amazing job,” said Wawrinka, who improved his record to 20-3 this season, lifting his third title in five tournaments. “I can see that when mentally I'm there and I'm fighting, I can beat all the players.

“I'm really happy after winning my first Grand Slam to win a Masters 1000 so quick. I didn't expect to. When I came here, for me it was more like a test. I knew I was playing good tennis, but I didn't expect to win because the draw was so strong.

"It's always special to play Roger," Wawrinka added. "We know it's always a strange match, especially being in the final here. He's my best friend on the tour. We respect each other so much. Before and after, we are still very good friends. During the match, we just try everything to win. Today I'm really happy to take that one.”

Wawrinka’s maiden win was further proof, if needed, that his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open was more the basis of a pro-longed assault on the traditional Big Four rather than a fleeting disruption of the game’s elite.

His win over Federer was his sixth victory in six outings against top 10 opponents this season. It also marked just the third time in the past 37 ATP Masters 1000 tournaments a title was won by someone other than Nadal, Federer, Novak Djokovic – who picked up a wrist injury during the week – and Andy Murray.

Germany and Czech Republic will meet in the Fed Cup final this November after the nations clinched wins over Australia and Italy respectively, at the weekend.

Angelique Kerber and Andrea Petkovic were the stars of the show as Germany booked their place in a first final since Steffi Graf inspired them to victory in 1992. The pair both posted wins over Australian No.1 Sam Stosur in the 3-1 victory, while Kerber also saw off Casey Dellacqua in the second rubber. The Australian’s consolation point came courtesy of Ashleigh Barty and Dellacqua in doubles.

“It’s a very special moment for me and the whole team,” said Kerber. “It feels great. I played a good match but it was a tough one because Sam was playing also very tough and I have never beaten her before. It just means a lot; it’s a special moment for all of us.”

The Czechs kept their bid for an eighth title alive as they saw off defending champions Italy on indoor clay in Ostrava. Petra Kvitova, who missed out on their first round win over Spain with an illness, returned to score two points for her team.

The Czech No.1 gave the hosts an unassailable 3-0 lead with wins over Camila Giorgi and Roberta Vinci after teammate Lucie Safarova opened with an upset of Italian No.1 Sara Errani.

Donna Vekic lived up to her billing as one of the future stars of the WTA as she clinched a maiden professional title in Kuala Lumpur, in what was a weekend of firsts for the 17-year-old.

The Croat, ranked No.65 in the world, held out for a 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(4) win against Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova, who had come storming back from 1-5 down in the third set.

The victory over Cibulkova marked not only Vekic’s first win over a top 10 opponent, but also her first over a top 20 player.

"I'm so happy, I don't know what to say, I'm so, so happy,” said an elated Vekic after the win. "It was a very tough match. I was up 5-1 in the third set and she came back out playing insane - so I'm happy I was able to get through in the end."

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