Tough loss only reinforces Wawrinka's swagger
Updated: 2013-11-08 08:17
By Reuters in London (China Daily)
He won 83 points to Rafael Nadal's 80, hit 30 winners to the Spaniard's 14, struck more aces and generally played the more inspiring tennis, yet it all ended in familiar fashion for Stanislas Wawrinka at the ATP World Tour Finals on Wednesday.
The 28-year-old came close to beating the world No 1 for the first time in 12 attempts, losing 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6) in the most enthralling contest of the season-ending tournament so far.
If there was any consolation after losing his 26th consecutive set to the Spaniard, it was that it was his best display against Nadal, and his challenge is far from over.
Should he beat David Ferrer in his final Group A match on Friday, Wawrinka can still reach the semifinals on his first appearance in the elite field - and could even set up another chance to end his Nadal jinx .
Wawrinka has come a long way this year from the talented but inconsistent player of old, scoring eight wins against top-10 opponents - the third-best total on the ATP Tour - and reaching his first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open, where he pushed Novak Djokovic into a fifth set.
There is a swagger about the man they call "Stan", and he even had the confidence to have a dig at Nadal afterwards, saying the umpire had failed to stop the Mallorcan receiving coaching from his uncle Toni.
Nadal was warned for taking too long between points as he tried to fend off a Wawrinka onslaught at the end of a high-quality opening set - a compliment to the way his opponent was playing.
After a sluggish start Wawrinka roared back and broke Nadal to level at 5-5, held serve in the blink of an eye, then looked poised to edge ahead at 5-5 in the tiebreaker only to find some meaty blows repelled as only Nadal can.
On set point down he again looked in control of the point but stumbled as he followed in a thundering forehand, and his volley allowed Nadal to execute a routine pass.
The second set was a similar story, with Wawrinka even closer to taking it when he led the tiebreak 6-5 - only for Nadal to snuff out the danger with a smash.
Two points later it was all over, but Wawrinka walked off with his chest puffed out and cheers ringing in his ears from a London crowd that has taken a shine to the world No 8.
"For me, today I think was really close, but I think I played the right tennis," Wawrinka said.
"So far I haven't won any sets against him. But I need to still look on the positive side, you know.
"I think today was my best match against him. I think I am still improving."
In the day's other Group A clash, Tomas Berdych remained in contention for a place in the semis after cruising to a 6-4, 6-4 win over David Ferrer.
Berdych had lost his opening Group A match against Wawrinka on Monday, but gave himself a shot at making the last four of the season-ending event by sweeping aside world No 3 Ferrer in one hour and 23 minutes.
"It was not easy at all, you can see David is a great player," Berdych said.
(China Daily 11/08/2013 page24)