Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka will meet in an all-Swiss Monte Carlo Final. It will be the 15th meeting between the two. Federer leads the head to head 13-1. This seems to be the year for Wawrinka to cut down his deficits. At the Australian Open, he trailed Novak Djokovic 2-15 in their head to head only to topple the four time Australian Open champion 9-7 in the fifth. Then, in the final, Wawrinka beat Rafael Nadal for the first time after a run of 12 straight sets defeats.
Federer is an altogether different ball game for Wawrinka. Federer is the man Wawrinka has talked about being in the shadow of. Federer is arguably the greatest tennis player in history who has a stamp with his image on in Switzerland. And Federer is his practice partner, too.
While Wawrinka stepped out of Federer’s shadow in winning his first slam in Melbourne and becoming the Swiss no 1 player, Federer’s recent improved form and the manner in which he beat Djokovic in the semi-finals has meant hat shadow has risen again in recent months.
Federer has rarely looked better on clay than he did against Djokovic in their Monte-Carlo semi-final. Djokovic may have been hampered by injury but at times Federer’s shot-making would have been too much for a Djokovic on his best day. Just as Federer dismantled him in their 2011 Roland Garros semi-final, denting an otherwise impeccable season for the Serbian, the Swiss did the very same in today’s semi.
Dancing around on the clay to get into position to hit winners that had the crowd gasping, Federer reminded us one again what tennis on clay can look like as he beat Djokovic, on a 16 match wining streak, 7-5, 6-2. The 2009 Roland Garros Champion and four-time runner-up has been overshadowed himself on the red Clay by none other than Rafael Nadal. But with Nadal out of his way, a first Monte Carlo title is very much a possibility.
Wawrinka is the sole obstacle now in a quest to win one of the few big titles to elude Federer. However, Wawrinka will be no pushover. The Swiss no 1 put an end to Ferrer’s terrific run, bringing Ferrer down 6-1, 7-6 (3) after the highs he reached in defeating Nadal in the previous round.
Wawrinka has all the tools to beat Federer on clay. The 2008 Italian Open finalist even beat Federer in Monte Carlo in 2009, in straight sets no less, and in Federer’s Roland Garros winning year.
What will decide matters is Wawrinka’s mentality. While Federer will have no doubts he can beat his countryman, Wawrinka has struggled at times in matches he should have won against Federer. In their last two matches in Indian Wells and Shanghai Wawrinka had his chances but let them slip.
Wawrinka is a different player now. He is a Grand Slam Champion. Now Switzerland have two Grand Slam Champions to boast about, and they can boast about having them face off in an ATP 1000 final. Switzerland wins whatever happens. The same will not be true for the players though.
For Federer there is the chance to win his first ATP 1000 title since 2012 Cincinnati and his first Monte-Carlo title. For Wawrinka there is the opportunity to not only prove he is the Swiss no 1 but also to build on his Australian Open success. Expect a battle worthy of such stakes and expect a lot of white-painted faces with red crosses in the crowd.
Commentary by Christian Deverille