Monte Carlo R2 Preview: Stan Wawrinka vs Philipp Kohlschreiber

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Stan Wawrinka and Philipp Kohlschreiber meet for the 4th time with a spot in the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters third round on the line. Wawrinka beat Kohlschreiber earlier this season in Dubai.

(4) Stan Wawrinka vs Philipp Kohlschreiber
Wawrinka will make his 2016 Monte Carlo debut on Wednesday. The Swiss has not played since losing at the Miami Open to Andrey Kuznetsov. Kohlschreiber got off to a winning start this week by edging Borna Coric 6-4, 6-4. The German was solid as he took advantage of some fatigue from Coric, who had played in the Marrakech final just a few days earlier. Kohlschreiber would be broken once, but saved four other break points. He would win 32 of 73 points off of Coric’s serve and broke the young Croatian three times on eight chances. Kohlschreiber now seeks to get beyond the round of 32 for just the second time in the last six years.

In the Dubai meeting in February, Kohlschreiber was listless on serve. The German was broken five times and won just seven points out of 23 second serves. Wawrinka was decent, but still broken twice during the match. His first serve was good, winning 78 percent of the points. That was their first meeting since 2008. Wawrinka won that thrilling three setter in Madrid on an indoor hard surface in a final set tiebreak. Their first meeting was earlier in 2008, where Wawrinka won in straight sets over Kohlschreiber at the French Open.

The Swiss comes in off a perplexing loss to Kuznetsov in Miami. It was the same Kuznetsov he had beaten at Indian Wells the week prior in straight sets. His clay court form has been sketchy the last two years with two big titles and a handful of poor results. He won in Monte Carlo in 2014 and then promptly lost three of his next four matches on dirt. That included a French Open first round exit to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Last year of course, he added his second Grand Slam win at Roland Garros, but went 6-4 in four other clay tournaments with a Rome semifinal accounting for three of those wins.

Kohlschreiber has been somewhat spotty on clay as well, but made two ATP-level clay court finals in 2015. He won the title in Kitzbuhel. Kohlschreiber would go 8-7 on clay elsewhere last season. His best wins would come over David Goffin and Dominic Thiem on the surface. Seeds have been a big stumbling block for him in Monte Carlo over his career. He is 2-8 against seeded players in Monte Carlo with five of his last six campaigns ended by the first seeded player that he met. Perhaps it’s nothing to be ashamed of with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (twice) as the players to take him out.

Guessing the mood of Wawrinka is never easy. Matched up against a veteran like Kohlschreiber, he’ll need to be in the mood to compete or he could go home early. When he’s on, there isn’t anything that Wawrinka doesn’t do better than Kohlschreiber. The German has solid ground strokes, but Wawrinka brings more power and aggression. Again though, that is when the mood strikes him and he can find a consistent rhythm early.

The Swiss is a tremendous front runner, going 14-0 this season in matches where he wins the opening set. When he loses, all bets are off. Wawrinka is just 1-4 when he’s dropped the opening set this year. His career mark of winning after losing set one is right ar 33% of his matches. It’s not terrible compared to most of the tour, but it lacks a bit behind the elites who win 40% or better. Does that mean he’s going to give up if he drops the opening set? Most likely, no.

It does seem however to put him under the kind of pressure he does not always enjoy. His four losses this season all came when he dropped the opening set. Losses to Milos Raonic and David Goffin might be forgiven in that setting, but losses to Benoit Paire and Kuznetsov show some cause for concern if he starts slow. That makes the opening set massive for both, with the German unlikely to rally from a set down and Wawrinka having his issues when falling behind.

The Pig is always hesitant with Wawrinka outside of Slams, but Monte Carlo has been good to him most years. If he starts shaky though, watch out.

Prediction
Wawrinka wins in straight sets

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