Stan Opens Title Defence

Stan Wawrinka opened his title defence at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Wednesday with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Juan Monaco.

The seventh-seeded Swiss reached the third round in 72 minutes, converting five of his 14 break points and dropping just two points behind his first serve to move to a perfect 3-0 record over Monaco.

“I think I played a great match,” said Wawrinka. “It’s tough first round to play Monaco, but it’s a typical clay-court match. So he is playing from the baseline. For me in general it’s quite good because that gives me time to put my game. I’m really happy with the start. I had really difficulty with my game in the past two months, with my confidence. I was happy to change, to come on clay again. The conditions are great here, so I’m happy with the first match.”

The 30-year-old Wawrinka captured his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title last year at the Monte-Carlo Country Club with victory over countryman Roger Federer in the final.

The Lausanne native is chasing his third ATP World Tour title of the season this week, having lifted the trophies in Chennai (d. Bedene) and Rotterdam (d. Berdych). He was also a semi-finalist at the Australian Open (l. to Djokovic).

Wawrinka goes on to face ninth seed Grigor Dimitrov, who recorded back-to-back victories for the first time since the Australian Open when he defeated Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-4.

“I had a lot of confidence coming from the match yesterday,” said Dimitrov. “I played for two and a half hours. I was a little bit tired, but at the same time I was in a good rhythm. I knew what to expect from him. It was a pretty tight match, just one break in each set. He played quite well. All I could do was stay focussed and composed.

“I’ve practised quite a bit on clay so far. I’m just taking it match by match, considering I’ve not won that many this year. I’m working on my movement on court and on my shots. That’s pretty much all I can do. I don’t want to think too far ahead, the clay-court season just began. I think a lot of good things are ahead of me.”

Sixth seed Tomas Berdych made a winning start, beating Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-4, 7-6(2) in one hour and 44 minutes. The Czech broke serve twice from nine opportunities and won 70 per cent of his service points.

“Clay is probably not Sergiy’s most favorite surface,” said Berdych. “But he played a really great tennis today. He made me work pretty hard all the way through both sets. There were some tough situations that I had to handle. I had to find a way how to deal with his game; he was really changing the pace and changing the rhythm quite a lot. think for the first match on the clay, it was a good and solid start. I’m happy to have this one under my belt and I’ll keep on going, keep on rolling.”

It has been a stellar start to the season for the 29-year-old Berdych, who notched his 24th win of 2015. He is coming off a semi-final showing in Miami and earlier in the year finished runner-up in Doha (l. to Ferrer) and Rotterdam.

Next up for Berdych will be Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, who edged Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-6(4) in two hours and 41 minutes.

Tommy Robredo won an all-Spanish second-round clash with Marcel Granollers, 6-1, 6-1, in 76 minutes. The 32 year old saved five of the six break points he faced to claim his sixth win of the season.

Robredo goes on to face fourth seed Milos Raonic, who defeated Joao Sousa 6-3, 7-6(4) in his first clay-court match of the season. The Canadian fired 12 aces and lost just 10 points on serve in the 86-minute victory.

“It was good,” said Raonic. “I got through the match like I wanted to. I was able to play well in the important moments. I took care of my serve. Hopefully I can get better and better. It’s not about playing pretty tennis, it’s about finding a way to win.

“A lot of it comes down to attitude. Understanding that you’re not going to play that great. You’ve sort of got to fight your way through the tough moments and give yourself a chance to get better.”

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