As expected it would be an all Swiss final at the first Masters Series event of the year in Indian Wells as Stanislas Wawrinka and Roger Federer easily won their semifinals on Saturday to set up only the second all Swiss final at a Masters Series event in ATP history. The only other instance was at the Monte Carlo masters in April 2014 which is the only time the three time grand slam winner Wawrinka has won an ATP 1000 event. While the third seeded Wawrinka beat the Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-2, Federer followed him next on court to account for the home favourite Jack Sock 6-1, 7-6(4).
Wawrinka who needs to win at Wimbledon to complete a career slam, broke in the eighth game of the first set after being denied a chance in the sixth game. In a lengthy third game of the second set Wawrinka converted on his fifth break point opportunity and put the result beyond doubt with a break in the seventh game. The match lasted just 65 minutes and the Spaniard making his first appearance in the semifinal of a Masters event dropped to 0-15 against top 10 players. His consolation is that he is assured of breaking into the top Twenty for the first time in his career when the new rankings are out on Monday.
The 35 year old Federer who has exceeded all expectations this year by winning his 18th grand slam title at the Australian Open in January after coming back from a six month injury layoff, will now have a chance to win his fifth title in Indian Wells having won in 2004-2006 and then in 2012. He will also be bidding for his 25th Masters title and 90th tour level title overall. In the second semifinal, Federer broke the 17th seeded Sock’s serve to love in the fourth game and then again the sixth game as he won the first set 6-1.
Sock, who like Carreno Busta was making his maiden appearance at a Masters semi final, regrouped after taking a toilet break before the second set and also saved a break point in the seventh game to eventually force a tie break. Sock got a mini break but from 1-3 in the tie-break, Federer took six out of the next seven points to claim the win in 74 minutes.
The tenth ranked Federer has a chance to leap frog to sixth in the rankings with a win on Sunday, and is assured of moving to seventh regardless of the outcome. He hasn’t dropped a set in four matches and was granted a walkover when Nick Kyrgios withdrew from his quarter final match on Friday due to illness. Sock came into the match saving four match points against Grigor Dmitrov and also came within two points of defeat in a tense fourth round match against the Tunisian Malek Jaziri before registering his first Top 5 win against Kei Nishikori of Japan in the last eight.
Roger Federer leads the head to head record against Wawrinka 19-3, while Federer is 12-1 for the year, Wawrinka is 12-3. While Federer will be the hot favourite for the final, all three of Wawrinka’s win have come in important matches including twice at the Monte Carlo masters, round of 16 in 2009 and the title match in 2014, and then at Roland Garros 2015 when Wawrinka went on to claim his second grand slam title. He also won the Australian Open in 2014 and the U.S. Open in 2016.
The pair met this year at the Australian Open in the semi final when Wawrinka rallied from a two set deficit before Federer regrouped to claim the match in five sets before going on to beat Rafael Nadal in the final for his 18th grand slam title.
Prediction: Federer in three sets.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]