LONDON, (Reuters) – Stanislas Wawrinka got first use of one of illustrious compatriot Roger Federer’s favourite stages yesterday and seized the spotlight to open his ATP World Tour Finals campaign in style with a 6-3 6-7(0) 6-3 victory over Czech Tomas Berdych.
Having outshone fellow Swiss and 17-times grand-slam champion Federer at this year’s U.S. Open, Wawrinka showed he belonged in the elite season-ender with a dazzling performance at the 02 Arena to edge out fifth seed Berdych in two hours 25 minutes.
Wawrinka’s run to a first grand slam semi-final in New York helped him to establish himself in the world’s top 10 and he came into the tournament ranked eighth, one place behind Federer who starts his quest for a third title in five years in London today against defending champion and world number two Novak Djokovic.
The 28-year-old looked completely at home in the 17,000-seat arena, seizing the initiative in the opening set of the Group A game with the kind of risk-taking tennis that stretched Djokovic to the limit in two epic, if ultimately vain, grand-slam battles this year. He pocketed the opening set in confident fashion with one break of serve and still looked the better player in the second set as Berdych, the only player in the eight-man draw without a title this year, held on grimly.
Wawrinka buckled in the second set tiebreak when he failed to score a point but went straight back on the attack, breaking in the fourth game of the decider.
The Swiss needed treatment on his thigh with the finishing line in sight but at 5-3 he closed the door in ruthless fashion.
Later yesterday, Group B action was scheduled to get underway with Juan Martin del Potro up against Frenchman Richard Gasquet whose place in the line-up was made possible by home favourite Andy Murray failing to recover in time from back surgery.