Second seeded Roger Federer and fifth seeded Stan Wawrinka meet for the sixth time in the last two years when they square off in the U.S. Open semifinals on Friday. Federer has won three of the last five meetings, but it was Stan who spoiled Federer’s Roland Garros this year with a straight sets win in the quarterfinals.
(2) Roger Federer vs. (5) Stan Wawrinka
Both Swiss masters breezed through the quarterfinals without breaking much of a sweat. For Federer, he continued a dominant run with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 demolition of 12th seed Richard Gasquet. That made it a perfect 15 of 15 so far for Federer as far as sets won this U.S. Open. His serve was magnificent again, winning 87 percent of the first serve points. He tossed in 16 aces. Amazingly of the 70 service games played by the #2 seed, he has been broken just twice this tournament. Both of those came in the third round at the hands of Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Wawrinka had few issues with what appeared to be a slightly worn Kevin Anderson in the quarterfinals. Anderson had battled third seed Andy Murray for over four hours in his shock win against the Scot in the fourth round. He was no match in the quarters for Stan who rushed home a 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 winner. The 5th seed pounced on the second serve of the South African as he won 63 percent of the points. His own first serve was nearly perfectly, winning 30 of 32 points. His second serve was equally solid as Wawrinka won 68 percent of the points. He faced judt one break point and saved it. That marked the first time that Wawrinka had not been broken in a match this tournament.
Overall, this will be the 21st meeting between the top two Swiss stars. It is decidedly one sided with Federer holding a 17-3 advantage. Since Wawrinka’s rise to becoming a Grand Slam Champion in 2014 though, it has been much more competitive. Five meetings have taken place since The Stanimal won the Australian Open in 2014. Only one has come on a hard surface. That was at last year’s ATP Tour Finals where Federer survived 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (6). You might recall that match because of MIrka Federer’s now-famous dust up as she told Wawrinka he was a “cry baby.” Wawrinka proceeded to blow four match points at 5-4 in the 3rd with Federer recovering for the win after the alleged incident. Of course, that is now the second most famous incident involving Wawrinka.
This season, Federer won their first battle at the Rome Masters 6-4, 6-2. Wawrinka returned the favor on a bigger stage though with his surprising straight sets win over Federer a few weeks later at the French Open 6-4, 6-3, 7-6. Their last Grand Slam meeting prior to that was in the 2014 Wimbledon quarters. Federer won 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-4. Fed also owns three other wins against Stan at Slams, but those all came before Wawrinka’s dramatic improvement over the past two years or so. Surprisingly, Federer is seeking to make his first U.S. Open since losing to Juan Martin Del Potro back in 2009. Wawrinka has never made it to the final. He was denied on his lone semifinal appearance two years ago in a great five set match against Novak Djokovic.
Obviously there is no secret to either player what they will be facing in the semifinals when they stare across the other side of the net. They have played each other too many times and practiced too many times together not to know what is coming. There could be a wrinkle or two like Fed’s SABR, but mostly it is the realm of the known for these two when going against each other. Both want short and aggressive points. Federer’s serve is the better of the two. Wawrinka’ backhand is the better of the two. Forehands are similar and consistency with this shot could very well tell the story of the match.
This promises to be a different match to an extent than what was seen a few months again in Paris. Federer’s serve on clay does not have the giddyup it currently possesses. Wawrinka will have to be prepared for that. That also means his own serve will need to be rock solid. What was evident in that match is something The Stanimal can do and that is zone out. He had 43 winners to 28 for Federer and his first serve was outstanding as he won 88 percent of the points there. It was similar to what Djokovic would see in the French Final. Wawrinka going big and hitting more winners than unforced errors.
For the past month, Federer has been a dominant force on this surface and it has all started with his serve. If Wawrinka cannot find a way to dig into Fed’s serve, that could mean tie breaks come into play. Federer is now 17-10 this season in tie breaks. Stan is even better at 27-10. Over the five most recent meetings, they have split four tie breaks. It could be a large indicator of the match winner if they do get involved in tie breaks. Among those four tie breaks, the winner of each went on to win the match.
This is a huge match. With Federer again near a Grand Slam Final, you know the want will be there from the Swiss Maestro to get another shot at a Slam title. For Wawrinka, it is a matter of pride. To prove that he isn’t second fiddle to anyone. Not Federer. Not Djokovic. He has shown the ability to come up big in big matches and this certainly is one. The feeling from most is that Federer will meet Djokovic come Sunday. For The Pig though, I think Stan is the last guy Federer wanted to see in this spot.
Wawrinka will need a quick start to aid his cause. The one thing that could negate all of Federer’s fantastic flow on court is taking a bite out out of him early. Be that in the form of Stan winning a set or breaking Roger’s serve, early momentum could bring out some nervy play from Federer who has seen zero adversity through five rounds. Stan has seen some here and there, so I think he is better equipped to come from behind. Still, that’s not a great recipe with the way Federer is hitting the ball right now. Honestly, I think this is a toss-up. The Pig had Wawrinka at the start of the tournament as the guy to get through in this spot and I’ll go down with the ship.
Prediction: Wawrinka wins in five sets.