Wawrinka eases into last 8

Wawrinka eases into last 8

Tennis: Chennai Open: Swiss ace runs into German Berrer; Ginepri falls to Slovak Lacko

Wawrinka eases into last 8

Fluid elegance: Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka rips a backhand return during his straight-set victory over Michael Russel in the Chennai Open on Thursday. AFP

Robin Soderling’s exit had come as a huge setback to the tournament, but the end of the Indian challenge in singles had delivered an even bigger blow. Wawrinka, however, injected the much-needed life into India’s only ATP event with a performance that was more beautiful than brutal and more precise than power-packed. In his last-eight match, the Swiss ace will meet German seventh seed Michael Berrer, who ousted Stephane Robert of France 7-6 (9-7), 6-3. 

In an earlier match, American Robby Ginepri, who had scalped the tournament’s top seed Soderling, had to bite the dust against Lukas Lacko. The Slovakian prevailed over Ginepri 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 in just over an hour and a half. Lacko will lock horns with Israel’s Dudi Sela, seeded fifth here, in the quarterfinals. Sela overcame Kevin Kim of USA 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.

Wawrinka’s last stop here was all too brief as he was knocked out in the first round by Italian qualifier Flavio Cipola, but this year, he had announced prior to the tournament that he was here to make amends for last year’s failure. And so far the World number 21, has lived up to his promise. “It was a tough match, no doubt. He was playing really well, but I am just happy to have come through in straight sets,” said the third-seeded player after the match.

After making short work of Indian wild card Rohan Bopanna in the first round, Wawrinka had a tricky opponent in Russel, who had sent another home boy and qualifier Prakash Amritraj packing in the opening round. Wawrinka was slow to get off the blocks as he was stretched to two deuces before he held his first serve.

The Swiss had a chance to go up when he held advantage in the sixth game, but he hit a forehand wide to let the advantage go and Russel held serve to be at 3-3.

A backhand cross-court winner gave Wawrinka a break point in the eighth game and he went on to convert it when Russel hit a forehand long. He then held serve in the next game to go a set up.

It wasn’t an easy set as the scoreline might suggest. A tenacious Russel had an answer for almost everything Wawrinka threw at him. However, once Wawrinka got his backhand going, Russel could do little. Possessing perhaps one of the most potent but equally delightful backhands, Wawrinka hit the ball past his rival, creating almost impossible angles. “I felt good about my game today. It’s all about staying positive on the court,” he said.

Indeed, Wawrinka remained positive even when he struggled with his serve and was eventually broken in the second set. Leading 3-1 with a break in the fourth game, he saw Russel level the score 3-3. “I was not serving well, because of the wind,” he admitted. It, however, proved just an aberration as two unforced errors by Russel gave him another break. The set then went with serves as Wawrinka claimed it and the match. 

Singles (second round): Lukas Lacko (Slo) bt Robby Ginepri 7-6 (7-3), 6-4; 5-Dudi Sela (Isr) bt Kevin Kim (USA) 7-6 (7-3), 6-2; 7-Michael Berrer (Ger) bt Stephane Robert (Fra) 7-6 (9-7), 6-3; 3-Stanislas Wawrinka (Sui) bt Michael Russel (USA) 6-3, 6-4.

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