Stan Wawrinka will be desperate to kickstart his comeback from injury with a good run in Toronto, particularly as his two fellows in injury misery, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, have begun to make impressive strides. But the Swiss could well face a stern test against the mercurial Australian Nick Kyrgios. Kyrgios has, however, been struggling with injuries nearly all season and has withdrawn from his last two events. Will he be fit enough to heap further misery on Wawrinka?
Kyrgios and Wawrinka have met four times in a head-to-head tied at two wins apiece. Wawrinka got the first, beating Kyrgios 6-3 6-4 at Queen’s in 2015. Kyrgios won later that year in Montreal when Wawrinka retired trailing 0-4 in the decider. Unfortunately, that match was marred by a particularly distasteful comment from Kyrgios towards Wawrinka that does not bear repeating. They then met twice in 2016, with Wawrinka winning in Dubai and Kyrgios in Madrid.
Last time out
Wawrinka scored perhaps the best win of his season by defeating Grigor Dimitrov in the first round at Wimbledon 1-6 7-6 7-6 6-4. But it proved a false dawn that perhaps said more about Dimitrov than it did Wawrinka who fell in the second round to Italy’s Thomas Fabbiano 6-7 3-6 6-7. He then began his hard court campaign in Washington. But he found no answers in the US capital, losing to Donald Young in the first round 4-6 7-6 6-7.
Kyrgios’ Wimbledon hopes were ended in the third round by an impressive Kei Nishikori who defeated him 6-1 7-6 6-4. Kyrgios then travelled to Georgia for the Atlanta Open, where he was the second seed. His tournament began well with a comprehensive 7-5 6-2 win over Noah Rubin. But he was forced to retire trailing 5-7 0-3 against Cameron Norrie in the quarterfinals. He was then due to face his compatriot James Duckworth in Washington, but he withdrew with the same injury.
How do they match up?
Both men usually look to dictate proceedings. Wawrinka does so with the arguably unequalled power he can throw behind his groundstrokes, particularly his hammer of a backhand. Though not the most versatile single-hander, it is certainly the most powerful and Wawrinka has used it to hit through the best defences in the game more than once. But he has been struggling to find his aggressive best so far since returning from a knee injury that required two surgeries.
Kyrgios also has plenty of power although he prefers his forehand. It is an excellent shot, with the Australian capable of flattening it out and imparting heavy topspin. His backhand is slightly ungainly, with a rather shovelled technique, but it is solid and Kyrgios can step into it. His serve is his biggest weapon, however, and it is amongst the most accurate in the sport. Wawrinka, who struggled badly with his return game against Young, will need to be at his best in that department against Kyrgios.
This is a difficult match to call because how both men will play is almost a complete unknown. Indeed, whether both men will even play is an unknown. But if Kyrgios is fit enough to take to the court, he will come into this match as the overwhelming favourite and rightly so. Wawrinka is still struggling badly to find his game whereas Kyrgios has generally played well this season when his body has allowed him to. He will have too much for Wawrinka and expect a straight sets victory for Kyrgios.