Stan Wawrinka battled hard to come through in just over three hours against Paolo Lorenzi with a 6-4, 7-6, 7-6 victory, booking his place in the last-16 on Sunday: where he will play defending champion Novak Djokovic.
After winning in four sets against Italian teenager Jannik Sinner and experienced Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, Stan would have been happier to finish Friday’s afternoon session at the US Open with a straight-sets win against 37-year-old Lorenzi.
Having said that, this could have been a different match entirely had the Italian converted more than two of his whopping 13 break point opportunities over the course of their encounter.
Three hours and two minutes meant Wawrinka spent more time on court compared with previous victories, found himself increasingly flustered and an eyewatering 50 unforced errors over the course of the match didn’t make for good reading either.
The 34-year-old, who has struggled for consistency in recent seasons despite excellent pedigree, utilised his blistering serve to devastating effect against Lorenzi, who had no answers. He recorded 24 aces while earning a number of important points in commanding fashion on his serve, while simply overpowering his opponent. But that too had its weaknesses, evidenced by an ever-present tendency to make mistakes and gift Lorenzi a way back into the match.
Lorenzi pushes stan into tricky situations, but cannot execute
Lorenzi had almost half Stan’s unforced errors (28 to 50), but naturally couldn’t replicate the same explosive power regularly enough to match his winners either. Instead he remained a nuisance, rallying hard and forcing him into tricky situations, longing out points and increasing the scope for mistakes.
The fact that Wawrinka saved six break points in the first set alone rather speaks volumes, particularly early on while both men were sussing one another out. As for the second set and subsequent tiebreak, Lorenzi’s persistence almost paid off. Stan needed six set points to finally conclude a nervy breaker – though the Italian could’ve levelled the match up 8-7 on serve.
The third and final set was more of the same, though Lorenzi’s fatigue became evident as time wore on. Wawrinka had a mini meltdown, smashing one of his racquets to smithereens before giving it to a starry-eyed supporter in the crowd nearby, but nonetheless managed to recover from a potentially precarious situation at 4-4 and again at 5-5 to win the breaker 7-4.
“Physically, I feel really good. The more I win, the better I play and I do well here.” – Wawrinka post-match
On whether he’ll watch Djokovic-Kudla, he said: “I might watch, depends on what I’m doing this evening. I’ll probably watch a bit but I know what I can do, that’ll be an interesting match.”
It’s the first time Stan has earned a round-four berth at Flushing Meadows since he won back in 2016, which was also his most recent meeting against Novak Djokovic – who has a 19-5 H2H record.
It was far from a vintage Wawrinka display, sprinkled with some excellent winners and more forgettable moments. He knows he’ll need to be better and more efficient all-round on Monday if he’s to earn a quarter-final berth, whether he faces Denis Kudla or the world number one – who we know is less-than-100% at present.