Stan Wawrinka woke up, shook off his three-match losing streak, and played passable tennis against Marin Cilic in the ATP World Tour Finals, winning 7-6(3), 7-6(3). It was a relief to see a different Stan this time in London.
The 6-foot-6 Cilic always serves big, but today he tapped into unusual aggression, at the price of consistency: he put only 44 percent of first serves into play, and won 86 percent of those points. Many of those well-placed serves set him up to polish off points at net, where he finished 12 of 15. But Cilic looked fragile enough in crucial moments—especially on his returns—that Stan never had to dig too deep. He used his backhand slice judiciously to cool down any baseline rallies that got too spicy for him, and his beloved backhand drive regularly shifted the momentum in his favor, earning him nine winners.
Although it’s a tricky fact to reconcile with a career year that vaulted him to No. 3 ranking, Wawrinka’s win over the No. 7 Cilic marks only his third victory over a top 10 player:
Cilic can’t proceed to the next round, but the other three players in this round robin group—Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori, and Wawrinka—all have a shot, pending on the results of the final two matches in the round. (Here are the possible permutations.) If Murray beats Wawrinka, which seems likely, he and Nishikori will move onto the semifinals seeded 1 and 2.