What you have to love about Stanislas Wawrinka is that he’s winning a lot of tennis matches while remaining one of the more profligate of players on the tour. If you can waste chances, play with conspicuous shortcomings, and demonstrate only a mediocre understanding of tactics and strategy and still beat David Ferrer, you most certainly have the thing most people would kill for: Talent.
Today, Wawrinka kept alive his hopes for remaining in contention at the World Tour Finals with an impressive if not always masterful win over one of the game's toughest players. Recovering from a lapse that seemed to surely torpedo his chances, Wawrinka won the final round-robin match for either man in two hours and 19 minutes, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-1.
While Ferrer, one of the hardest working men in show business, appeared to tire, Wawrinka played his best and most commanding tennis in the final set—one in which he broke Ferrer three of the four times the world No. 3 served.
This was a surprising turnaround, for Wawrinka had plenty of reason to be discouraged after a first set in which he capitalized on a break in the sixth game to build a 5-3 lead, but collapsed in the next game to yield his advantage with a double fault at break point.
After a quick hold for 5-all, Ferrer went to work in his familiar, grinder’s fashion. He reached deuce in the next game, and then fought toe-to-toe with Wawrinka through four more deuces (and four break points) before he broke through to take a 6-5 lead.
However, Ferrer played an awful game when he served for the set and the net result was a tiebreaker. In it, Ferrer jumped to a 4-0 lead. Wawrinka wiped away one of the mini-breaks and crept to within 3-5, but at that point he threw in a backhand error (following his own serve) and Ferrer closed it out when the next rally ended with another Wawrinka error, this one a forehand.
But going from 5-3 up to a 6-7 lost set wasn’t overly troubling for Wawrinka. After all, for much of the set he was playing Ferrer even-Steven off the ground, but always was more capable of blasting winners and un-returnable serves. Wawrinka’s main problems were familiar ones: His return was mediocre; he was inconsistent off the ground; he seemed not to have a game plan, or a commitment to seizing opportunities.
Wawrinka dismissed two break points in the second game of the second set with aces, and held the game with a gorgeous backhand down down-the-line winner that served as his battle flag. If this match had a turning point, that was it. For he then broke Ferrer in the next game thanks to an uncharacteristic Ferrer rally backhand error.
The men exchanged holds after that all the way to roughly the same point they had reached in the first set: Wawrinka serving for it, at 5-4. This time, his nerve held. From 30-all, he walloped a tremendous service winner and bellowed, “Come on!” Then he teased Ferrer into missing his customarily fail-safe inside-out forehand.
Wawrinka broke Ferrer swiftly in the first game of the third set, and he was off to the races. He rained down his best serves of the night in the next game to secure an easy hold for 2-0. Wawrinka hit 14 aces in the match, while Ferrer did not manage an ace. Serving better, attacking the ball more eagerly and with more purpose, willing to trade blasts with Ferrer until he found an opening to hit one of those stinging backhands or heavy forehands, Wawrinka chalked up another break with a forehand winner for 4-1.
There’s no quit in Ferrer, but like those of us watching he probably sensed the match slipping away. He almost got back into it in the sixth game, when he had Wawrinka down 15-30, but a backhand winner and a pair of un-returnable first serves put Wawrinka back in charge, now at 5-1.
A distracted Ferrer threw in two double faults in the next game and fell behind 15-40, and Wawrinka ended the match fittingly on his first match point—with a prodigious backhand service-return winner.
Stat of the Match: In the decisive set, Wawrinka won 90 percent of the points when he put his first serve into play (9 of 10); Ferrer won just 54 percent (6 of 11) of his first-serve points.