Stan Wawrinka begins his quest for a second Monte Carlo title on Wednesday, as he takes on Czech left-hander, Jiri Vesely.
Stan Wawrinka vs Jiri Vesely ATP Monte Carlo Masters tennis is live from Monte Carlo on Wednesday, 19 April from 11:00am local time/ 10:00am BST. Watch and bet on tennis live from Monte Carlo at bet365 > live streaming > tennis
This is a tricky fixture for Wawrinka, against an opponent who recorded a shock victory over Novak Djokovic at the same stage last season. The Swiss number one has put together a solid, consistent campaign till date, reaching the semi-finals or better in three of his five tournaments.
He opened the year with a semi-final in Brisbane, before repeating the trick at the Australian Open, where he fell in five sets to compatriot, Roger Federer. Wawrinka was hampered by a knee injury in that match, and subsequently had to withdraw from the World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. He returned to action in Dubai lacking match fitness and practice, and he duly suffered a first round exit to Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur.
Wawrinka was closer to his best at Indian Wells, battling through a couple of tough three-setters on his way to his first final of the season, but he again crashed into the sublime Federer, who produced another one in a series of glorious performances in 2017 to deny his compatriot in the Californian desert. Wawrinka lost in the fourth round in Miami to NextGen superstar, Alexander Zverev.
The world number three enters Monte Carlo with a very useful record in the tournament, and on clay generally. A third of his 15 career titles have been on clay, with his greatest conquest of course being that stunning victory over Novak Djokovic in the 2015 French Open final.
He was again decent on the dirt last year, winning the title in Geneva before falling to Andy Murray in the semi-finals at Roland Garros. The Swiss also reached the quarter finals in Monte Carlo. His finest moment in Monte Carlo came in 2014, when he beat Roger Federer to claim the title- which remains, surprisingly, his only Masters 1000 title till date. Wawrinka also reached the semi-finals back in 2009, falling to Novak Djokovic in three sets.
He will be well aware of the dangers posed by Vesely in his 2017 opener.
Jiri Vesely. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)
Vesely’s victory over Djokovic in Monte Carlo was one of two top-ten victories he recorded last season, with the other being against Dominic Thiem at Wimbledon, showing the dangers he carries, but he does struggle for consistency, which is a major reason why he is currently ranked outside the top 50.
Vesely struggled severely at the start of 2016, losing seven of his first eight matches, but the clay court season brought better tidings for the Czech. He won consecutive matches for the first time in Casablanca, reaching the semi-finals, before getting to the third round in Monte Carlo, producing that huge win over Djokovic in the process. He also made the quarter finals in Istanbul, and lost to Nicolas Almagro in the second round of Roland Garros in what was generally an encouraging clay court campaign.
Another big highlight was a run to the fourth round at Wimbledon, but he made just one quarter final (in Shenzhen) in the remainder of the season.
Vesely opened 2017 with a quarter final showing in Auckland (the venue of his one career title in 2015), but he followed that up with three straight first round losses. He had a decent spell in North America, reaching the second round at Indian Wells, and the third round in Miami; and he has again looked very comfortable on his return to the clay. Fresh from a semi-final run in Casablanca, Vesely opened his Monte Carlo campaign with a 7-6 6-3 victory over Mischa Zverev, and he will now take aim at Wawrinka on Wednesday.
Wawrinka won their only previous meeting in straight sets at the US Open in 2014, but he was taken to two tie breaks by the left-hander. This one looks set to be equally as close.
Vesely has already shown how good he can be on this surface, and with five matches, and four wins on clay already under his belt, he has a bit of a head start on Wawrinka, who is no stranger to the odd early exit.
Wawrinka, by virtue of his ranking and pedigree is the favourite for this one, but Vesely has got enough in his locker to pull off the upset.