More than 20 months after reaching his 28th tour-level final at Roland Garros in 2017, Stan Wawrinka defeated Kei Nishikori 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament to move into his 29th championship match on Saturday.
“This is a big relief for me,” said Wawrinka. “It’s my first final since the [knee] surgery, so to show I can still play at this level against the top players is very important for me.”
The 33-year-old, who required two left knee surgeries in August 2017, landed 35 winners, including eight aces, to triumph after two hours and 13 minutes. Wawrinka will be aiming to capture his second title in Rotterdam after beating Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych in back-to-back matches to lift the trophy in 2015.
“When you come back from a surgery like that, you need to be patient with yourself. You look to start to win matches and gain confidence,” said Wawrinka. “I think my level is there physically and tennis-wise. If I stay focused and do the right things, I think I’m going to get back to a good place.”
The three-time Grand Slam champion will meet Gael Monfils in Sunday's final. Wawrinka leads Monfils 3-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, but the pair have met just once in the past eight years, at 2017 Roland Garros, with the Swiss triumphing in straight sets.
"We practise together a lot and we’re really close friends," said Wawrinka. "We’ve said it would be nice to play against each other in a final, so tomorrow will be special for both of us."
Wawrinka raced into a 2-0 lead at the Ahoy Rotterdam, claiming the opening break of the match with a crafty short return and a well-struck forehand passing shot down the line. The Swiss soon doubled his advantage, dominating rallies with his forehand before moving up the court to rush his opponent into errors. Despite surrendering one break of serve, Wawrinka broke for a third time with his ninth winner, an angled crosscourt backhand, to take the opening set after 37 minutes.
Nishikori responded emphatically in the second set, moving into a 4-0 lead of his own after finding success attacking Wawrinka's backhand in crucial moments. Wawrinka held firm, recovering one of the two breaks after finding further success bringing Nishikori to the net off his
Marco Cecchinato advanced to his third ATP Tour final on Saturday, defeating Guido Pella 6-4, 6-2 at the Argentina Open.
The third-seeded Italian, who captured clay-court titles in Budapest and Umag last year, won 71 per cent of service points (37/52) and did not face a break point en route to victory after 69 minutes. Cecchinato improves to 5-4 this season after beating Pella for the second time in as many FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings. Last week, Pella reached his fourth tour-level championship match at the inaugural Cordoba Open (l. to Londero).
Cecchinato will face defending champion Dominic Thiem, in a repeat of last year's Roland Garros semi-final, or home favourite Diego Schwartzman for the title. The Italian trails top-seeded Thiem 0-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series and has never contested a tour-level match against Schwartzman.
Did You Know?
Cecchinato entered this year's Argentina Open with a 0-3 tournament record.