By the time I got to the tournament grounds at the Western and Southern Open; secured a credential; and then found an open desk, Stan Wawrinka was up a break at 2-1. He and Diego Schwartzman then played out a death-march Game 5: Diego saved 3 break points before holding serve with a crafty T second serve ace, catching Stan cheating to ad to set up a forehand return.
This was one of several matches on the first Monday of the tournament to feature a big name in the ATP draw starting unusually early. As I was getting on the plane from Houston to Cincinnati, Andy Murray (ATP No. 375) was starting a third set against Lucas Pouille, the 16 seed. Later Monday evening, Novak Djokovic (ATP No. 10) started his campaign against Steve Johnson. Wawrinka is poised midway between these former World No. 1s at 151, and he was matched against Schwartzman, the 10 seed.
Stan did convert for an insurance break and took the first set 6-2, so I decamped from the media center to the Grandstand court. Cincinnati is a more compact venue than many sites I’ve been to, and it was a comparatively short walk to the Grandstand. I got to some bleacher seats just in time to see Stan hit four unforced forehand errors in a game to break himself.
This gave me my first look from the sidelines at Schwartzman’s serves. At first I thought the radar gun was off: It showed 75 miles per hour for some first serves, a 78 mph, then a 115 mph. After a while I caught on: Most top male players mix up their service targets and spins, but Schwartzman does more to mix up his first serve speeds than any ATP player I can remember. Break point down, Schwartzman won a free point with a 69 mph changeup first serve. Three successive errors by Stan from 40-30, 4-5 set us up for a third set.
The crowd began to pull harder for Wawrinka as the set went on: Mistakes by Schwartzman typically prompted a silent gesture toward his coach, while Wawrinka was way more vocally expressive. After breaking to go up 4-3, Wawrinka faced break point on his own serve: When Schwartzman hit a forehand long, Stan bent over and bellowed “C’mon!!” He rode his own emotion and the crowd’s approval to a hold, and one more break to seal the match.
I was glad to catch Schwartzman live: His hustle and combativeness are easy to see on TV, but the screen doesn’t capture how pure Schwartzman’s timing is at the baseline, or the number of balls he takes on the rise. But I’ll confess that I was pulling for Stan: He has 148 spots to climb before he makes it back to his former top ranking, and he won’t be able to do that going out in the first round of the big events.
He plays Kei Nishikori next.
I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.
Source: Aditya Prabhakar(Tennis with an Accent)
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