Last we saw the third-ranked tennis player in the world, he was stumbling out of the first round in Paris, shown the door by the world No. 91. Before that, in Basel, he crumbled against No. 72 Mischa Zverev, facing visible mental collapse in the third set. And in today’s rematch of the U.S. Open semifinal against Kei Nishikori, Stan Wawrinka stayed ice-cold, spraying 31 unforced errors in a 67-minute loss. Outside of the Slams, you can never confidently predict which Stan you’re going to see on court, and this one—shanking and grimacing—offered little resistance to clean-striking Nishikori. Wawrinka’s slump is getting harder to see as temporary, but he’ll probably shake off his late-season malaise and return to form in Australia.
There were a handful of pretty rallies between these baseline specialists, but the outcome was never in question. Japan’s star played some of his best tennis of the year, losing only 11 points on his serve, maintaining lethal depth, and getting a good look at every ball thanks to his compact strokes and nimble movement. It helps, also, when you’re making shots like this:
Elsewhere in the round robin phase of the ATP Finals, Milos Raonic dispatched Gael Monfils, 6-3, 6-4, despite some typically dope showmanship from the Frenchman. That means that the London tournament, aside from crowning either Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic with the year-end top ranking, will double as a race for third.
Raonic has Djokovic next. Nishikori’s next matchup has yet to be determined, but if he maintains this level of play, he’ll be a tough out for anyone in the field.