By Ricky Dimon
Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer will be squaring off for the 23rd time in their careers when they battle for the BNP Paribas Open title on Sunday. Federer is dominating the head-to-head series 19-3, including 14-0 on hard courts. Wawrinka’s three victories have come on clay in 2009 (Monte-Carlo), 2014 (Monte-Carlo), and 2015 (French Open). He has lost three in a row against Federer since last getting the best of his fellow Swiss, most recently via a 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3 decision in the Australian Open semis.
That was one of three five-set wins for Federer en route to his 18th Grand Slam title, as he also defeated Kei Nishikori (fourth round) and Rafael Nadal (final) after going the distance. The 35-year-old is 12-1 this season following straight-set victories in Indian Wells over Stephane Robert, Steve Johnson, Nadal, and Jack Sock to go along with a walkover from Nick Kyrgios in the quarterfinals.
“Sometimes you get lucky when you put yourself out there,” Federer said of the Kyrgios withdrawal. “I did. I’m able to keep going today which I’m very happy about. Next thing you know, from looking at that section of the draw as a mountain to climb, next thing you know you’re in the finals and flying.”
Wawrinka took a much more circuitous route to the semis, twice needing three sets–and third-set tiebreakers–against Yoshihito Nishioka and Dominic Thiem. Nishioka served for the match at 5-4 and 6-5 in the decider only to fall 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) and Thiem went down 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(2). Wawrinka is 12-3 on the year and into his first title match on the heels of semifinal performances in Brisbane and at the Aussie Open.
“For me, it’s great–it’s (an) amazing result to be in the final here, especially in Indian Wells, one of the best Masters 1000 (events),” Wawrinka commented. “To have a chance to play for a trophy tomorrow here, it’s great.”
When asked about the final he quipped, “Roger, we all know him, so (there’s) nothing to say.”
There has been nothing good for Wawrinka on a hard court against Federer, and based on current form there is no reason think the tide will suddenly turn. The third seed has not produced his best stuff this fortnight, but he has survived because of clutch play in critical moments and in part thanks to a favorable draw. This is where the favorable draw ends, and if Federer continues his aggressive play he will be able to take time away from Wawrinka’s backhand.
Pick: Federer in 2