“[It’s] going to be the last tournament here so I'm trying to do as well as possible, trying to keep pushing myself,” the 35-year-old said. “I’m close to the end of my career, but I also believe I have one last push that I really want to, again, one more time push myself to the limit, make the sacrifice that you need to make to be at my top.”
It sounds like Wawrinka is in for a busy offseason, but for now, his focus is solely on the 23-year-old American, who upset Gilles Simon on Tuesday, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Paul and Wawrinka have never played before, and while neither player benefited much from the five-month hiatus—Paul is 6-7 and Wawrinka is 5-4 since the tour resumed—the shot-making possibilities in this matchup are enticing.
The Swiss' groundstrokes are vastly superior to Paul’s, but the American owns the advantage in the movement department. He’ll need to use his speed and exceptional hard-court sliding ability when chasing down Wawrinka’s heavy cross-court backhand.
Though his seemingly nonchalant and blasé attitude on court may suggest otherwise, Paul is an extremely smart player. Simply exchanging groundstrokes with the Swiss will not be in his best interest. Also, gifting Wawrinka an attackable backhand will send him to the races:
If there is a crack in Wawrinka’s armor, it’s in his return game. He’s known as a “block” or “chip” returner. His groundstrokes are so overwhelmingly powerful that he’s content to start the point from a neutral, or defensive position, but that leaves the door open for a first serve/first ball combo, like Dan Evans showed yesterday:
Look for Paul to try to take control of the point from the first ball. He’s a great defender, but you don’t beat Wawrinka by playing defense. The 23-year-old will need to use his quick feet to find his forehand, like he did below against Simon:
After losing the first set, 6-3, to the Frenchman, Paul made a concerted effort to move forward and hit more forehands. He was rewarded and won the second set, 6-3, while winning nine of ten points at the net. He volleyed exceptionally well, something he’ll need to repeat on Wednesday:
In the end, Wawrinka’s crosscourt backhand may prove too much for Paul. But regardless of the end result, this match is sure to showcase both Wawrinka’s jaw-dropping power as well as Paul’s underrated athleticism.
The Pick: Stan Wawrinka