In a battle of the Grand Slam champions, three-time Major champion Andy Murray takes on three-time Major champion Stan Wawrinka for a place in the second round in Eastbourne. Both players, who were long-standing members of the top five and in Murray’s case ascended to the pinnacle of the world rankings, are playing at Devonshire Park as wildcards after injury. Both are looking to get back to where they surely feel they belong. But who will come out on top?
Murray and Wawrinka have clashed 18 times so far in a head-to-head that Murray leads narrowly 10-8. Their first match came more than a decade ago in 2005 in the Davis Cup World Group playoff between Switzerland and Great Britain on clay with Wawrinka winning in straight sets 6-3 7-6 6-4. It was the Swiss who picked up the win in their second meeting, beating Murray a year later in Indian Wells in the first round 7-5 3-6 6-4. But neither has ever enjoyed a particularly extended period of dominance.
Wawrinka also won their last match, beating Murray in a five-set thriller at Roland Garros in the semifinals last year 6-7 6-3 5-7 7-6 6-1. But, in their only two matches on grass, Murray has been the victor. He first got the better of Wawrinka under the roof on Centre Court at Wimbledon in 2009 in five sets 2-6 6-3 6-3 5-7 6-3 in what was once the latest ever finish at the Championships. He then beat Wawrinka again on Centre Court, this time at the Olympics in 2012 6-4 6-4 in the first round.
Last time out
Murray’s last outing was his first competitive match in 342 days after a troublesome hip injury eventually necessitated surgery. It was perhaps hard luck then that his draw at Queen’s landed him Nick Kyrgios as a first round opponent considering the Australian’s aptitude for grass court tennis. Murray gave a very good account of himself, particularly in taking the first set, but as the match wore on Kyrgios began to land more and more telling blows and eventually triumphed 2-6 7-6 7-5.
Wawrinka also made the trip to West Kensington, where he also competed in the doubles alongside Novak Djokovic, who reached the final in singles (lost to Cilic). Wawrinka’s campaign did not go quite so well, but he did get just a second win since February by downing Britain’s Cameron Norrie 6-2 6-3. He then put in a valiant effort against 2010 Queen’s champion and last year’s Wimbledon semifinalist Sam Querrey, but was ultimately overcome 5-7 7-6 1-6.
How do they match up?
Both Wawrinka and Murray are superbly gifted tennis players, unlucky perhaps to have played in the era of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic but with commendable careers despite that. Wawrinka’s success is built on his thunderous power from the back of the court, with the Swiss able to hit through anyone, and that means anyone, on his day. Murray lacks Wawrinka’s power, though he has plenty of it, but is the better mover of the two, particularly on a grass court. That could count in his favour.
Murray and Wawrinka are fairly evenly matched, particularly now with both men in the early stages of what they hope will be successful comebacks from serious injuries. So evenly matched are they that the surface they face off on can have a big impact on the outcome of the match, and on a grass court that swings it in the favour of Murray, the two-time Wimbledon champion. There’s a reason the only Slam where Wawrinka hasn’t been beyond the quarterfinals is Wimbledon. Murray in three.