Stan Wawrinka and Benoit Paire will put their friendship to one side on Tuesday, when they meet in the second round at the Masters 1000 event in Rome. Wawrinka will look to build on his 6-2 lead in their head-to-head record.
Paire benefits from Tomic’s retirement
Benoit Paire advanced to the second round in Rome due to Bernard Tomic retiring after only three games were played. The Frenchman is in fine form on clay this year, boasting semifinal appearances in both Estoril and Barcelona. In the first clay Masters 1000 event of the year, Paire reached the third round in Monte-Carlo and led world number three Andy Murray by a set and a double break, before succumbing to the pressure and ultimately being defeated. He exited at the first round stage in Madrid last week after Jack Sock won a thrilling encounter in a final set tiebreaker.
The Frenchman produced his best showing at a Masters 1000 event in Rome back in 2013, where he progressed all the way to the last four, with Roger Federer proving too strong to advance to the final. That was the only time when Paire had gone past round three at a Masters 1000 event.
Wawrinka looking to build some form ahead of his Roland Garros defence
Similarly to Paire, Stan Wawrinka exited in Madrid after his first match, but fell at the second round stage after receiving an opening round bye. Nick Kyrgios defeated the Swiss number two in impressive fashion, to give his fans another worrying thought with his form in 2016 anything but consistent. The defending French Open champion started the year superbly by clinching the title in Chennai, and despite winning the Dubai crown, this form has decreased. A quarterfinal defeat to Rafael Nadal on clay can never really be considered as disappointing, but his performance lacked any signs of the Wawrinka that showed himself at Roland Garros last June.
The world number four has also reached the semifinals in Rome, with a positive showing at last year’s event leading to his greatest achievement in Paris. He went even further in 2008 when he was defeated by Novak Djokovic in the final, requiring three sets.
Wawrinka and Paire have met on eight different occasions, but Tuesday’s encounter will be the first on clay. Wawrinka leads the head-to-head 6-2, with either player winning one-a-piece in their two matches this year, in Chennai and Marseille.
The first meeting took place at the Australian Open in 2012, with the 31-year-old Swiss winning five of their first six matches. Their most recent was in Marseille, where Paire got revenge for the defeat in Chennai before going on to lose the semifinals the round after.
Despite Paire’s strong clay form, Wawrinka starts as the favorite as if he’s on his game, not even Djokovic can stop him on the dusty surface. His form recently has been patchy, but Rome has produced some of his best performances and he’ll be desperate to lay down a marker before his title defence in Paris.
That meeting in Marseille nearly went all the way to a final set tie-breaker, but Paire had other ideas to take the win. Expect this meeting to go the distance but Wawrinka to progress this time.
Prediction: Stan Wawrinka in three sets