ATP Rome R2 Preview: Stan Wawrinka vs Benoit Paire

WAWABP

BFFs for life, Stan Wawrinka and Benoit Paire, meet again with a spot in the third round at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia as the trophy for their 9th career clash. Paire won the last time these two met indoors in Marseille earlier this season 6-4, 1-6, 7-5.

(4) Stan Wawrinka vs Benoit Paire
Wawrinka hits Rome without much momentum after losing his opening match in Madrid last week in two tiebreaks to Nick Kyrgios. Despite the loss, it was probably one of his better performances over the last two months. Since winning the title in Dubai in February, he has put on quite a few Non-Slam Stan uneven showings. He has lost two of his three opening matches during the Masters swing that started in Indian Wells. The Swiss made the semifinals in Rome last year to break a four year string where he did not pass the third round.

Paire played just three games in his opener before Bernard Tomic retired due to illness. This is just Paire’s third trip all-time to Rome and his first main draw “win” since 2013. His form has been fairly decent since hitting clay. He is 8-5 with back-to-back semifinal showings in Barcelona and Estoril. Last week, he lost a tough one to Jack Sock in a third set tiebreak in the opening round in Madrid.

This is the third meeting between Wawrinka and Paire in 2016. Wawrinka beat Paire in straight sets 6-4, 6-3 in Chennai at the beginning of the season. Paire then won the last clash in Marseille in three sets. Wawrinka is 6-2 overall against Paire with the Swiss winning their only clay court meeting in Buenos Aires in 2012.

It is always a treat for the backhand fanatics when these two meet. You might be watching the best one hander in the game in Wawrinka and the best two hander in the game in Paire. The problem for Paire is the erratic forehand and inconsistent serve. Wawrinka can also suffer from those two plagues, but has much better consistency compared to his counterpart. Paire seemed to win in spite of himself in Marseille last time they met.

In that meeting, Paire left eleven break chances ripe for the taking, but was able to save eight. Wawrinka doled out seven break chances with four saved. The Swiss actually won more points in the match at 96 to 89. A glaring weakness was on parade for Paire in that one with the Frenchman landing just 49 percent of his first serve. That allowed Wawrinka 54 looks on second serve as he took more than half the points (28).

The same problem cropped up in Paire’s loss to Sock in Madrid, where he was only getting 45 percent of his first serves in play. Sock would win 25 of 56 points on second serve. If Paire is going to pull an upset of Wawrinka, he needs to get more than half his first serves put into play. Off the ground, both will likely prefer to set up the other’s forehand to see if the errors will flow or not. Wawrinka should especially look to that side against Paire, the far weaker of his ground strokes. The Swiss has a much more powerful and consistent forehand usually, but Paire still likely will test it rather than the exquisite one handed backhand.

If Paire can consistently avoid the Wawrinka backhand, he will have a chance to push Wawrinka in this match. The Swiss’ confidence isn’t very high at the moment and he’s shown a propensity for early exits in the last two months. With Tsonga withdrawing due to an abductor injury today, the winner here will have a real leg up on working towards the semifinals. It could be a great battle, but Paire still has the more inconsistent game and the Stanimal needs to get his butt in gear with the French Open title to defend in the next few weeks.

Prediction
Wawrinka wins in three sets

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