After six days of action, five mid-match retirements, four Indians in the main draw, and three unseeded players making it to the quarterfinals, we are now finally down to two players fighting it out for top honours on the one remaining day of the tournament.
Both players had awkward semi-finals to negotiate today. Roger-Vasselin first saw off the challenge of Marcel Granollers in an encounter of fluctuating fortunes, eventually prevailing 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. In the second semi-final, Wawrinka battled Vasek Pospisil, his own faltering serve, and the lack of rhythm due to the physio’s frequent intervention to attend to his opponent. Wawrinka was in a spot of bother at 6-4, 5-5 when Pospisil was forced to retire due to a bad back, and the tournament favourite found himself through to the final.
As Wawrinka attempts to secure his second title at Chennai, and Roger-Vasselin looks to win his first ever ATP title, here is a SHOT analysis of four factors that could play a crucial role in determining the outcome of the match – Surface of play, Head-to-head, Occasion, Trending Form
Surface of Play
Roger-Vasselin admits to liking fast courts that suit his game. His only previous appearance in an ATP final came at Delray Beach, on outdoor Plexipave courts, one of the faster hard court surfaces around. The Playpave surface at Chennai may be relatively slower, but is sufficiently similar for the Frenchman to have enjoyed it this week.
Wawrinka likes his hard courts, especially the slightly slower ones which give him time to wind up on his backhand side. His deep runs on the hard court Majors last year, and his previous win at Chennai stand testimony to this. His better results and greater consistency on these surfaces should keep him confident, though the surface is unlikely to be a decisive factor tomorrow.
The two players have played twice before on the ATP circuit, and have split their meetings one apiece. Interestingly, their most recent encounter in October last year, on the hard courts of Basel, was won by Roger-Vasselin in straight sets. Even in their first meeting on these very Chennai courts in 2012, Wawrinka was pushed to three sets, before coming through 7-5 in a tight final set.
It does seem that Roger-Vasselin knows a thing or two about handling Wawrinka’s game. In today’s semi-final post match conference, the Frenchman said as much when asked about the final. He pointed to his most recent win over Wawrinka and the fact that he knows the Swiss’ game reasonably well, as positive factors he would take into the match tomorrow.
Roger-Vasselin is a veteran on the professional circuit, but this is just his second ever final appearance at an ATP singles event. In his first finals at Delray Beach last year, he lost to Ernests Gulbis. He will have learnt from that encounter, but the nerves will remain, and the lack of big match experience might still count against him.
Wawrinka, on the other hand, has four ATP singles titles in his collection, one of which was won in this very tournament three years ago. Moreover, he is the current darling of the Chennai crowd, and he has carried the superstar mantle with ease over the last week. The crowd can be expected to be solidly behind him as he attempts to begin the new season in the best possible manner.
Wawrinka is coming off a career year last season when he broke into the Top Ten for the first time, claimed a semi-final spot at the US Open, and made his debut at the World Tour Finals. Over the year, his profile changed from that of an inconsistent player on the outer fringes of the elite, to that of a genuine title contender with an inclination to play big against higher-ranked opponents. It remains to be seen how he cashes in on his momentum this year, but he has made a sound start so far at the Chennai Open. He cleaned up his opponents efficiently in his first two rounds in double-quick time, before being pushed by Pospisil in the semi-final. Based on recent form, Wawrinka goes in as red-hot favourite.
In a sense, Roger-Vasselin is also coming off a career year in 2013; only, his scale of achievements has been smaller. After more than ten years on the ATP circuit, he reached his first ATP tour final and also a career high ranking of 48, last season. At the Chennai Open this week, he opened with a couple of comfortable straight-sets victory in the first two rounds. This was followed, however, by a three set affair against Dudi Sela in the quarterfinals, and a semi-final encounter that also went the whole distance against Granollers today.
Expected Outcome: Wawrinka beats Roger-Vasselin in two close sets for his second Chennai Open crown