It’s not every day that a victory by Stan Wawrinka would be considered an upset. But coming into the 2018 Rogers Cup ranked 195 in the world and only receiving a wildcard because Andy Murray gave his up, the Swiss was definitely the underdog going into his first-round clash with sixteenth seed Nick Kyrgios.
But the Swiss showed the persistence and solid hitting that has seen him win three majors, overcoming some early struggles and wearing the Aussie down for one of the biggest wins of his comeback to date. After dropping the opening set, Wawrinka broke late in the next two sets to claim the victory 1-6, 7-5, 7-5, just his second top-50 win of the year.
Early heat from Kyrgios
After a slow start that saw him face and save a break point in his opening service game, Kyrgios went to work establishing his dominance over the Swiss. He was helped early by some sloppy play from Wawrinka, who essentially gave away a break in the fourth game when he committed four straight unforced errors to drop serve at love and give the Aussie an early lead.
Kyrgios was at his crafty and big-hitting best in the opening set, crushing winners seemingly on command and keeping Wawrinka from establishing any kind of rhythm. Up 4-1 on the Swiss’ serve, the Aussie had three chances to add an insurance break. Wawrinka saved the first two, one when Kyrgios netted a forehand and one with an ace, only to double fault on the second to surrender a break. The Aussie closed out the set with back-to-back aces.
Wawrinka heats up
Despite losing the opening set, Wawrinka was starting to find his rhythm and his level continued to elevate in the second set. The turning point in the match came at 3-all when the Swiss rallied from love-30 down and survived multiple deuces to hold. After failing to break, Kyrgios appeared to be losing focus as, after losing a point up 30-love on his own serve, the Aussie smacked a ball out of the stadium, leading to a warning from the umpire.
Throughout the set, Kyrgios started missing his targets a little more, but generally, he was still playing well. It was, therefore, a surprise when, after Wawrinka held for 5-4, the Aussie called for the trainer and had work done on his hip during the changeover. The hip had forced him out of his last two tournaments and after the medical timeout, it was suddenly clear that Kyrgios was moving gingerly and was struggling to move, especially when changing direction.
Even with the injury, it was not stopping Kyrgios from teeing off on everything within reach. Serving to stay in the set at 5-6, however, the Aussie’s mighty serve finally cracked. He was one point away from a tiebreak at 40-15 but let the lead slip away and then netted a lazy forehand at deuce to give Wawrinka set point. Kyrgios tried to serve-and-volley, but the Swiss caught him with a perfect backhand crosscourt return winner to grab the second set.
Kyrgios fades, Wawrinka rises
Despite his now visible limp and minimal effort to chase down shots, Kyrgios had an opening to reassert his command of the match in the third game of the final set. Twice in the game, Wawrinka double-faulted to give the Aussie a break point but both times the Swiss cracked a winner, going on to hold.
Kyrgios’ aggression was higher than ever in the set, going for aces on every serve, even seconds. As a result, he had a crazy high number of aces, including a bunch on his second serve. But the Aussie did have some shaky moments, including another blown 40-15 lead in the eighth game, although this time he recovered to hold.
Just like the second, Kyrgios ran into trouble when serving to stay in the set at 5-6. Needing to hold to stay in the match and force a tiebreak, the 16th seed played his worst game of the match, digging himself into a 15-40 hole, double match point for Wawrinka, courtesy of a series of errors. He would save the first match point with an ace, but once again tried to serve and volley on the second as he had in the second set. Wawrinka was ready again, ripping another big backhand return that Kyrgios dumped into the net.
By the numbers
Kyrgios’ first serve numbers were astounding, with 26 aces and 85 percent of first serve points won. However, despite a bunch of second serve aces, he double-faulted five times and only won 47 percent of his second serve points.
Despite only putting 52 percent of his first serves in play, Wawrinka was solid too winning 78 percent of those points. He was marginally better than Kyrgios on his second serve with 49 percent of points won. Both men had two breaks in the match, although Wawrinka saved all the break points he faced after the opening set.
Wawrinka will meet Marton Fucsovics in the second round.