He didn’t play his best, and he didn’t have to, but Stan Wawrinka finished the job in about 77 minutes, beating Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 6-4 6-4 to reach the semi-finals of the 2016 Aircel Chennai Open.
Wawrinka, the tournament’s top seed and reigning champion, proved too strong for Garcia-Lopez whose three wins over the Swiss had all come on clay. So it was an uphill battle from the start.
14 aces and some breathtaking shots made that job even harder as Garcia-Lopez could not cope with the pace and depth of Wawrinka’s shots. This match, from start to finish, lay on Wawrinka’s racquet.
The opening game lasted 11 minutes in which Wawrinka won his first two points with some classic backhands, one crosscourt that drew and error and one down the line for a clean winner. The game had six deuces and three break points, which Garcia-Lopez managed to side-step to eventually hold.
The top seed served up a love hold in return.
It wasn’t surprising that the break came soon enough, in Garcia-Lopez’s next service game. Down 15-40, the Spaniard managed to save two more break points, but Wawrinka got the advantage when his opponent’s slice on the third break point of the game didn’t cross the net.
Wawrinka followed it up with another love game.
The defending champion’s backhand came out in full force, with a couple of sublime shots from the Swiss.
He hit one down the line winner off a ball that landed close to the middle of the court off a crosscourt shot, changing direction effortlessly. The other was a true line licker. The Garcia-Lopez forehand wing was under attack constantly.
What followed was a strange sequence of games where the match suddenly seemed to lose all steam. Both players were just going through their motions and there was a definite lull in the match.
That probably was what led Wawrinka to go a bit walkabout as he played a poor game to hand the break back in the eighth game. Garcia-Lopez was only too kind to return the gift, getting broken to love in the following game.
A third hold to love for the set saw Wawrinka pocket it.
The second set saw a huge drop off from the opener, with Wawrinka showing flashes of compatriot Roger Federer’s service games, holding in under a minute with three aces and a good second serve in the second game.
In the sixth game, Wawrinka’s serve was briefly threatened at 15-30, but a backhand down the line that landed plush on the white paint and two aces saw him nip that in the bud.
Garcia-Lopez, even with Wawrinka, being a little off colour simply did not have the weapons to hurt him. The world no.4 secured the lone break in the seventh and soon proceeded to finish the match off holding at ease.
Wawrinka’s record at Chennai now stretches to 10 matches unbeaten since his last loss here in 2013.
A good friend awaits
Lining up across the net to Wawrinka in the semi-final will be the third seed from France, Benoit Paire. The world no. 19 beat qualifier Thomas Fabbiano of Italy 6-4 7-5 in a fluctuating match.
Despite being only two sets, the match lasted close to 90 minutes as the inconsistencies in Paire’s game brought Fabbiano into play, particularly in the second set.
He broke Fabbiano’s very first service game, as he’d done to Lukas Rosol in his opener, but proceeded to get broken himself while serving for the set before getting it back.
In the second, the pair traded breaks for five games in a row from 1-1, with Fabbiano holding and taking a 5-3 lead. Paire though gathered himself in time to avoid going to a third set as he reeled off the next four games to take the match.
The Frenchman struggled with his serve, landing only 44% of first serves in all match.
“He’s a good player. Strong backhand, serving well, always putting you under pressure. Its going to be tough. Its never easy to play against each other as we’re really good friends. So let’s see, it’s going to be a good challenge”, said Wawrinka on the upcoming semi-final.
Paire and Wawrinka will be first up on court on Saturday evening in what promises to be an entertaining affair.