Stan Wawrinka was involved in another tricky match in his title defence at the French Open, but unlike this first round five-setter, he required only three sets to dispatch Japan’s Taro Daniel 7-6 (7), 6-3, 6-4.
Wawrinka edges a tight opening tie-breaker
Wawrinka started the match strongly, holding to 15 before bringing up three break points in his first return game. He failed to convert any of the three opportunities, leading to Daniel holding for 1-1. The Japanese player was forced to save another break point in his next service game, holding onto his serve yet again before missing two chances when returning in the following game. The next seven games were dominated by serve, as neither player registered a break point leading to the first set being decided by a tie-breaker.
The start of the tiebreaker was equally tight, with the score at 3-3 on the first changeover. It was Daniel who took the first mini-break, as he set up two set points on his own serve. These were saved by strong groundstrokes from Wawrinka, who then capitalised on his gain in momentum to convert his second set point moments later to clinch the opening set 7-6 (7). The set was tight on the scoreline, but Wawrinka couldn’t convert his slight dominance, hitting 23 winners compared to 10, but failing to convert any of his five early break points.
The Swiss number two begins to take control
This incapability to convert his chances was immediately shattered in the opening game of the second set, as Wawrinka broke immediately on his sixth opportunity of the encounter. The set was more comfortable for the world number four, creating two more break chances in the fifth game that were saved this time by Daniel. He was completely dominant on serve, missing out on another two break points in his next return game, before finally breaking to love to win a one-sided second set 6-3.
Wawrinka had only lost two points on his delivery in the whole of the second set and created break points in four of his five return games.
Daniel threatens, but falls just short
After not threatening in his return games throughout the second set, Daniel started the third set stronger, breaking to love. He won the next five points of the match to give himself a chance of securing a second break, but just missed out to give Wawrinka something to cling onto in the set. The world number 93 was completely in control of his service games, losing only one point to lead 4-3, but found himself down 0-40 and facing three break back points. He initially saved all three, but succumbed to the pressure of a long service game, with Wawrinka levelling the set at 4-4.
This seemed to dishearten Daniel, who lost the match when he was broken for the second successive occasion in the third set, despite having a game point to level at 5-5. The Swiss number two getting the job done in just over two hours, securing victory with a well-known backhand winner.
This was another tricky match for the defending champion, but this time, he prevented five sets by playing the big points well in this second round encounter. He saved two set points in the opening tiebreak to clinch the first set, with the result perhaps reading differently if Daniel had managed to convert either. In the third set when down a break, he put the disappointment behind him to break late in the set, taking the control and confidence away from his lower-ranked opponent.
Wawrinka hit nearly three times as many winners as Daniel but hit more than double the number of unforced errors, showing there’s still room for improvement if he’s to defend his 2015 crown. Another stat which suggests the victory could’ve been completed more easily was the Swiss’ break point conversion rate, as he won only four of the 17 chances he created. Next up in the third round is Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, who defeated Adam Pavlásek for the loss of just ten games.