ATP St. Petersburg: Wawrinka Rallies from a Set, Three Match Points Down to Defeat Evans
By Max Gao
(October 12, 2020) ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA (VIRTUALLY) — In the final singles match of the day, No. 5 seed Stan Wawrinka was forced to save three consecutive match points en route to scoring a hard-fought 3-6, 7-6(3), 7-5 win over Daniel Evans in the first round of the St. Petersburg Open.
After playing from behind for the better part of the first two sets, Wawrinka found himself trailing 3-6, 5-6, 0-40 against Evans, whose combination of first-strike tennis and dogged defense had prevented the Swiss from making any inroads in their first-round clash. From triple match point down, the three-time Grand Slam champion seemed to find another gear, winning nine points in a row en route to taking the second set, 7-6(3), against the Brit.
In a tightly contested final set, Wawrinka went up an early break and served for the match at 5-3 but was immediately broken at love. In the end, however, the Swiss would bide his time, capitalizing on a few unforced errors from Evans in the final game to break and secure a hard-fought win in just over two-and-a-half hours.
In the process, Wawrinka extended his ATP Head2Head record against Evans to 4-0 and marked his second victory over the Brit from match point down. In their first meeting at the 2016 U.S. Open, Wawrinka saved a match point against Evans to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(6), 7-6(8), 6-2. The victory would catapult Wawrinka into another second-week appearance at Flushing Meadows, where he would go on to win his third Grand Slam title.
“It’s always difficult when I play Dan. He’s a great player. Always a tough battle against him,” the Swiss said after his win. “Today I saved some important points in the second [set]. I stayed focused on my game, I started to serve better and be a bit more aggressive, so really happy to be back here in St. Petersburg and to have won that match.”
With the abbreviated season drawing to a close with the European hard-court swing, Wawrinka said that he has not been thinking about qualifying for the ATP Finals in London but has rather chosen to focus on gaining the confidence he needs to compete at the highest level again.
Stan Wawrinka in press: “In general, I’m happy with the fight, with the victory, saving match points. I started to play much better. I think I didn’t serve well when I served for the match, I made a few mistakes quite early and I had a bad game [before closing it out].” #SPBOpen pic.twitter.com/BzPMJGhY47
— Max Gao (@MaxJGao) October 12, 2020
For a place in the quarterfinals, Wawrinka will meet home favorite Evgeny Donskoy, who knocked out Belarusian Egor Gerasimov, 6-4, 7-6(4).
“It’s gonna be an interesting match,” the No. 5 said in his news conference. “He’s a great player. I watched him today play before me. He’s playing well, he’s playing here, he likes the conditions, so I will have to focus on myself, play good match, focus on what I’m doing [which is] playing aggressive.”
Karatsev, Bublik Advance; Norrie Upsets Familiar Foe Fritz
Earlier in the day, the limited Centre Court crowd was also treated to a pair of thrilling three-set clashes, both lasting two hours each. In the first match, Russian wild card Aslan Karatsev edged out two-time Australian Open quarterfinalist Tennys Sandgren, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5. The 27-year-old wild card will now await the winner of the match between No. 4 seed Karen Khachanov and James Duckworth.
Next, Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik came from a set down to defeat American Mackenzie McDonald, 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-4. McDonald dominated much of the first set and a half, using his all-court game to keep Bublik on the defensive. However, it was the Kazakhstani who was able to serve his way out of trouble time and time again, firing 25 aces—including 12 and 10 in the second and third sets, respectively—to secure a hard-fought comeback victory in just over two hours. The World No. 52 will likely find himself in another big-serving match-up in the next round, as he will face the winner of the match between No. 6 seed Milos Raonic and qualifier J.J. Wolf.
In the only singles match on Court 1, Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie got the better of No. 8 seed Taylor Fritz for the third time in five professional meetings, defeating the American 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. The 25-year-old served 16 aces, converted both break point opportunities that he created and used his powerful lefty game to neutralize Fritz’s penetrating groundstrokes throughout the match, securing the victory in an hour and 57 minutes. The Brit now awaits the winner of the match between Mikhail Kukushkin and Miomir Kecmanovic.
Khachanov/Rublev Upset Top Seeds Murray/Skupski
In the final match of the day on Centre Court, the all-Russian team of Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev teamed up once again to upset the top-seeded British team of Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski, 6-7(6), 6-3, 13-11, in a match that ended at 12:30 in the morning.
After his marathon victory over McDonald, Bublik teamed up with American Reilly Opelka to defeat the all-Serbian team of Kecmanovic and Nikola Cacic, 2-6, 7-6(5), 10-8.
Coric, Raonic, Khachanov, Rublev Highlight Second Day of Main-Draw Play
On Tuesday, first-round action will continue at the St. Petersburg Open, with four other seeded players getting their campaigns underway.
No. 7 seed Borna Coric will look to rebound from his disappointing early exit at Roland Garros with a tough match against Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, whom he has already lost to in two previous meetings.
In his first match since breaking into the top 10, Rublev will highlight Tuesday’s night session as he kicks off his campaign against the in-form Vasek Pospisil, who made the fourth round last month at the U.S. Open. In addition, Khachanov will square off against Duckworth and Raonic will play Wolf after missing Roland Garros due to injury.
Tuesday’s schedule at the St. Petersburg Open has been released!
Notable matches on the schedule tomorrow:
→ Feliciano Lopez vs. Borna Coric
→ J.J. Wolf vs. Milos Raonic
→ Karen Khachanov vs. James Duckworth
→ Vasek Pospisil vs. Andrey Rublev#SPBOpen #FormulaTX pic.twitter.com/DZpuZ0T5vX
— Max Gao (@MaxJGao) October 12, 2020
Max Gao is a freelance Canadian sports and entertainment journalist that is covering this year’s St. Petersburg Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow all of his reports throughout the week here and follow him on Twitter for live updates and exclusive, behind-the-scenes content from this year’s event: @MaxJGao.