Three-time Major champion Stan Wawrinka hopes to continue his comeback from injury in Sofia where he is the top seed. Having struggled for form and fitness at the Australian Open, the tournament in Bulgaria has been more profitable for the Swiss star, and he will be hoping to make his first final since the French Open in June. Standing in his way is Bosnian #2, Mirza Basic, who is hoping to make his first ever Tour-level final. But who will come out on top?
Somewhat unsurprisingly considering Basic plays most of his tennis at Challenger-level, the pair have never met before on Tour. But Wawrinka certainly has the clear advantage in terms of experience. Whilst Basic has never before made a Tour-level final, indeed he has just 23 Tour-level wins, Wawrinka is one of the biggest names in the sport. The Swiss has 16 career titles and 468 match wins. If the match were played on paper, Basic would have little chance.
Path to the semifinals
Wawrinka, as top seed, received a first round bye and thus began against Martin Klizan. The Slovakian is a dangerous, if inconsistent player, with a victory over Nadal to his name. He impressed early on, deploying his heavy topspin forehand against Wawrinka, who was struggling for rhythm. Klizan took the first 6-4 and looked in good position. But the world #15 responded impressively. He broke Klizan twice in the second set, levelling the match and was confident in winning the decider 6-3.
Wawrinka then faced off against former world #12 Viktor Troicki of Serbia. Wawrinka was dominant in the first set, hitting through Troicki with his powerful groundstrokes. The Serb managed just a single a game as Wawrinka wrapped it up quickly. He was made to work harder in the second set, but had enough to seal a straight sets win in the tiebreak.
Basic has had a long road to the semis, beginning in the qualifying where he was second seed. He won through those two matches, including against his countryman Tomislav Brkic in the final round. After Stahkovsky, his first round opponent withdrew he began his tournament proper with a straight sets win against German veteran Florian Mayer.
That was backed up with another straight sets win against another German as Philipp Kohlschreiber fell 5-7 6-7 in a tight match. Basic clashed with his third German of the week in the last eight when he overcame Maximilian Marterer. Basic won the first set 6-4, before Marterer hit back to level the match. But it was the Bosnian who held his nerve to win through to the semifinals, winning the decider to complete a 6-4 4-6 6-3 win.
How do they match up?
Stan Wawrinka’s power, particularly off the backhand side, is rightly legendary. When the Swiss is able to dictate he is almost unplayable, and it is that raw power that has fired him to three Major titles and turned him into a Hall of Famer. As for Basic, he lacks Wawrinka’s power, but is not without capabilities of his own. He possesses a useful serve and is comfortable coming forward. His backhand too is a weapon when he has time on the ball.
However, his stroke production is a little rigid, and he can struggle to deal with power because of it. How he is able to contend with Wawrinka’s power off the ground will be crucial. If he is able to work Wawrinka over, the Swiss’ lack of match fitness could well become a factor. But that will be more easily said than done for Basic.
Basic has impressed in reaching the semifinals, but Wawrinka marks a huge step up in quality for the Bosnian. Though Wawrinka is not yet at the peak of his powers as he works his way back from injury, it is none-the-less hard to see Basic having enough to defeat him. It won’t be easy, but Wawrinka’s power and big match experience will see him through in two close sets.
Who do you think will reach the final? Let us know in the comments below!