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Stan Wawrinka heads for all-Swiss quarter-final

Stan Wawrinka goes after a volley during his Fourth round match
by Matt Trollope
Tuesday 1 July 2014

Stan Wawrinka advances to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon for the first time in his career with a tense 7-6(5), 7-6(7), 6-3 victory over grass-court giantkiller Feliciano Lopez.

You will often come across the phrase “what a difference a year makes” in the sphere of sports journalism. In Stan Wawrinka’s case, you could condense it to four weeks.

Just a month after the Swiss was left bewildered among the ruins of his shock first-round defeat at Roland Garros, he finds himself in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon for the first time in his career.

Such a result came courtesy of his 7-6(5), 7-6(7), 6-3 defeat of grass-court giantkiller Feliciano Lopez, a testy match on No.2 Court that saw Wawrinka set up a blockbuster showdown in the last eight with illustrious compatriot Roger Federer. The No.5 seed had failed to escape the first round in three of his past visits to the All England Club, making the result all the more surprising.

“I think in general my level is higher than in the past. My confidence (in) myself also. This year, with losing first round French Open, I had more time to do a good preparation. I came early, playing Queen's, playing few matches. I had quite a lot of time on the grass. For me, I think it's important for my game,” he said.

Wawrinka began the season with his first Grand Slam victory at the Australian Open, and followed it up with his first ATP Masters title in Monte Carlo – incidentally, at Federer’s expense. But following his defeat to unseeded Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in Paris, Wawrinka was at a loss to explain what had changed. "It's one of the very few times, maybe the first time I felt so bad on the court,” he lamented.

“I need to put the puzzle back together, but differently than in the past, because now, after winning Grand Slam, Masters 1000, being No.3 in the world, everything is different, and I still didn't find all the pieces.”

Today, he found them. Coming up against a player who was playing exemplary grass-court tennis – Lopez had reached the final at Queen’s, triumphed in Eastbourne and won 12 of his past 13 matches on the lawns – Wawrinka simply took the Spaniard's winning formula and reproduced it even more effectively. He took care of his service games with 31 aces and a first-serve winning percentage of 89, and dominated at net to win 22 of 25 points in the forecourt. His winners-to-errors ratio was a stunning 55-8.

“I had my game plan. I was ready. I was focused on what I wanted to do: playing simple, playing really aggressive, trying to do a lot of serve and volley, trying to show him that I'm going to try. I'm going to accept that he's going to make aces. I'm going to accept that he's going a play well,” Wawrinka said.

“But I'm going to focus on what I do well: serving well, being aggressive. At the end of the match it's paying off.”

Lopez was also serving with aplomb, and the opening set progressed to a tie-break. Wawrinka won that, and the same pattern of comfortable service holds continued in the second set. Not that it was dull affair; the predictability of the holds was counter-balanced by the thrilling athleticism of the contest, especially around the net, where both men lunged and stretched to pick off some excellent winners.

When the second set also went the way of a breaker, Lopez had many chances. He scored an early mini-break to lead 4-1, and earned three set points at 6-3. The Swiss served an ace to stave off the second, but with a serve to come, Lopez would then rue not putting away a backhand volley, ultimately beaten by a Wawrinka passing shot. Lopez would gain a fourth set point, but incorrectly challenged a shot by the Swiss that landed on the baseline, seeing scores level at 7-7. Two points later he erred, and Wawrinka was up by two sets.

In the fifth game of the third set, Wawrinka earned a rare break point when Lopez hooked a forehand wide. And then things got a bit interesting; just as Lopez was about to serve, Wawrinka held him up, seeming to have taken issue with the Spaniard apparently talking to his entourage in the stands. Lopez would go on to hold, but an air of tension characterised the remainder of the match. In the eighth game, the Spaniard played a poor volley and then double-faulted to get broken for the first time – prompting a celebratory bellow from Wawrinka – before the Swiss served out the match with ease.

Another altercation followed, with the two men shaking hands at net before engaging in an animated discussion concerning what had transpired earlier. But Wawrinka insisted it was a matter settled. “At the end of the day, it's an important match for both (of us). A lot of tension over there, especially with first two tie-break. We both wanted to win, trying everything to win it, and that's it.”

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