Perhaps becoming a Grand Slam champion by winning the Australian Open in January has changed Stan Wawrinka’s outlook – and also his luck.
The Swiss has endured a wretched run at Wimbledon, winning only one match in the past four years, but at last, at long last, he has captured back-to-back victories by defeating Taipei’s Yen-Hsun Lu 7-6 (6) , 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in two hours 42 minutes to advance into the third round. The manner of this win was equally satisfying, too, since he needed to be at his most resilient to repel a determined Lu.
The two had never previously met, but with Lu ranked No.47 and Wawrinka No.3 on the ATP’s list (though seeded No.5 here because of that poor grass record) the Swiss was entitled to feel confident of the outcome. That was certainly the way it looked as Lu, slight of build, seemed in danger of being knocked off his feet by the power of the Wawrinka serve, which regularly registered speeds in excess of 130 miles an hour.
But the man from Taipei soon settled and even thrived on the weight and speed of the rallies, so much so that Wawrinka appeared puzzled, and then not a little irritated, by the manner in which the ball kept coming back, often with added power. In the ninth game, to the delight of the crowd on No.1 Court, Lu made the breakthrough as Wawrinka, mistiming a forehand, bounced his racket in disgust.
It was here, however, that Lu failed the test of nerve, descending into hesitancy and allowing the Swiss to break back to love. It happened again when the set moved into a tie-break, with Lu carving out a 5-1 lead, holding a pair of set points at 6-4 and descending into dismay as Wawrinka swept through the next four points to go in front after 53 minutes.
Understandably Lu was, to say the least, downcast by that swift reversal of fortune and he never came within a sniff of a break point in the second set and his 10 unforced errors ensured that Wawrinka soon found himself two sets in front.
At this moment the contest seemed as good as decided, only for Lu to rediscover his zest for battle. This semed to perturb Wawrinka, whose game began to disintegrate and he flung his racket towards his chair in disgust as he suffered three breaks of serve in a one-sided third set.
Now, it seemed, we would discover whether Wawrinka truly possesses the stuff of champions. The answer was a resounding yes. He fought off a break point which would have put Lu 4-2 up in the fourth set, stayed focused and determined and eventually moved effortlessly into top gear, breaking Lu to love in the 11th game and serving out to show that grass is, after all, not such a difficult surface to win on.
In this respect, Wawrinka explained, he was helped by early exit from the French Open. “I had a wild card into Queen’s so I’ve been playing on grass for almost three weeks now and I’m feeling really confident with my game. I think that made a big difference.”
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