A First for Stan
How the Monte-Carlo Final was won
World No. 3 Stanislas Wawrinka rallied from an early deficit to defeat countryman Roger Federer 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 for the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title on Sunday.
“I did see I was playing good tennis,” said Wawrinka. “It was few little changes to take the advantage. I started to play more aggressive, trying to push him more. When you win a match like this, it’s only one or two points, especially in the tie-break. But I think I did a great tie-break. I was serving big and being really aggressive. Then I took the advantage at the beginning of the third set. I saw that he was a little bit tired. Me, I was playing better and better, especially moving better.”
The all-Swiss clash was the first in an ATP World Tour final since 2000 Marseille, when Marc Rosset defeated Federer. Wawrinka captured his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy in his third final, having previously fallen to Novak Djokovic in Rome in 2008 and Rafael Nadal in Madrid last year. Federer, a 21-time Masters 1000 champion was seeking a maiden Monte-Carlo crown, his eighth different title at the level.
The No. 3 spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings was on the line as well, with Wawrinka avoiding relinquishing the career-high position he has held since winning the Australian Open in January.
Federer still owns a dominant 13-2 advantage in the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head series. Wawrinka’s first victory came in their first meeting at the Monte-Carlo Country Club in 2009. The third seed had since dropped all eight sets contested on clay.
Here is how the final unfolded.
FIRST SET – Federer 6-4
A packed Monte-Carlo Country Club, including Prince Albert of Monaco, World No. 10 Milos Raonic and fashion icon Tommy Hilfiger, welcomed the Swiss duo to one of the grandest and most picturesque stages on the ATP World Tour.
Federer applied immediate pressure to Wawrinka’s serve, earning a break point in the opening game of the match behind a strong return performance. The third-seed would calm his nerves to hold.
Wawrinka began dictating with his backhand on Federer’s serve and would garner a break point of his own, while returning up 2-1. He opened the game with a brilliantly constructed point, capped by a perfectly placed drop volley to the open court, but was unable to snatch the early initiative with Federer staving off the lone break opportunity.
As Wawrinka’s first serve percentage began to dip, Federer refused to relent to his close friend, stepping inside the baseline and attacking his countryman’s serve with conviction. The former World No. 1 would capitalise, grabbing the break for a 3-2 advantage when Wawrinka sent a backhand long, an uncharacteristic sixth unforced error off his preferred wing. The Lausanne native was broken for the first time after 29 consecutive service games held this week.
After being pushed to deuce in the very next game, Federer would consolidate for 4-2 with a service winner fired out wide and a successful serve and volley venture. A 0/30 look would also be denied by the three-time Monte-Carlo finalist two games later.
Federer maintained the pressure from the baseline in the latter stages of the set, as he continued to dictate off both wings. He would capture the opening set 6-4 after 42 minutes when Wawrinka sent a backhand return long.
SECOND SET – Wawrinka 7-6(5)
Wawrinka would not be deterred by the disappointing first set, earning an immediate break for 2-0 off a loose Federer service game, in which the Basel native served at just 33 per cent.
On cue, Federer dug in his heels, breaking back to love after firing a sensational running backhand down the line, passing an equally aggressive Wawrinka at the net.
As the World No. 3’s backhand unforced error count crept into double digits, he was unable to convert on a pair of break point chances in the fourth game. Wawrinka struggled to inject significant pace on his signature backhand passing shots in the heavier conditions. Federer successfully employed his serve and volley tactic in crucial moments throughout the match and this game was no different, holding for 2-2.
The skies would open during the following changeover, with Wawrinka leading 3-2, with a brief delay ensuing. The rain shower eventually passed and so would yet another opportunity to break, as Federer rallied from 15/30 to hold behind his 13th net point won.
With the business end of the set nearing, the boisterous partisan Swiss crowd would not be disappointed by the level of play from both competitors and the drama that would ensue.
Both players remained on serve through the 12th game and a tie-break was needed to decide the set. Wawrinka garnered the early mini-break edge for 4-1 behind a barrage of deep shots off the ground and would maintain his composure to earn a trio of set points at 6-3. He would convert on his third, pounding an overhead smash to pull even.
THIRD SET – Wawrinka 6-2
The match turned in an instant. Wawrinka experienced a surge of energy in the third set, efficiently attacking Federer’s serve and breaking immediately for the early lead.
As Federer’s aggressiveness quotient began to dip, Wawrinka pressed for a second break, which he would secure with a remarkable angle-abusing cross-court backhand winner. The smooth, crisp ball striking that had abandoned him in the early stages would become a staple of his increasingly aggressive game, holding for a seemingly insurmountable 4-0 lead.
Federer would have no answer for his compatriot, struggling to make in-roads in Wawrinka’s serve before eventually falling behind 1-5.
Wawrinka would clinch his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 on his first match point after two hours and 13 minutes, firing five aces, 32 total winners and breaking Federer’s serve three times.