Wins Chennai Open without losing a set the whole week

Stanislas Wawrinka’s has been a well documented struggle with self-confidence. For someone who has fought that as long and as hard as him, it is tough to throw out the demon forever. While the end of 2013 was the first step in banishing that, 2014 will be a year in which he would like to finally believe he is up there.

The quest for the same has started perfectly. A 7-5, 6-2 win over seventh seed Edouard Roger-Vasselin in the final on Sunday gave him his second Aircel Chennai Open title and his fifth overall.

“It’s the best tennis I have played in my six visits to the city,” Wawrinka said. “I was expecting a tough match because he [Roger-Vasselin] was playing well. I could have started the match better. But I am really happy.”

One of Wawrinka’s problems in 2013 was that he found it tough to close out matches. After a nervy first set here it was important for the old ghosts not to return.

“I had not lost a set this week,” he said. “So I was confident. After the first set it was crucial to make the right decisions and I did.”

The Frenchman threw everything he had at Wawrinka. He presented his opponent with some new problems to solve, something the Swiss had not got against his three previous opponents. Roger-Vasselin served and volleyed, chipped and charged to cut the rallies short and mitigate effects of those thunderous backhands and now vastly improved forehands.

“That’s the way I won against him in Basel last year,” said Roger-Vasselin. “It was the best way. But he played much better today, passed me better and he was simply too good.”

There were to be no breaks of serve till the 11th game, though Wawrinka came close in the fourth by fluffing four break points. Roger-Vasselin’s backhand, which had worked so well in the semifinal against Marcel Granollers, found Wawrinka’s depth and the accompanying power too much to handle. Often he had to employ the single handed slice to cover one more yard of court space which the two-hander doesn’t give with its limited reach.

When down a break point at 5-5, Roger-Vasselin served and charged to the net but Wawrinka’s pin-point return, right at the approaching player’s feet, was tough to connect and ball duly sailed long. On set point, Wawrinka hit the serve with extra vigour and let out a huge grunt after Roger-Vasselin’s shanked his return. That seemed to release all the pressure and next set was smooth sailing.

Wawrinka started with a break in the second. But it didn’t stop Vasselin from continuing his net play. The best duels, quite expectedly, came within three feet on either side of the net.

With Wawrinka relentlessly chasing every drop shot, and in the process scooping the balls for some winners of his own, Roger-Vasselin had to go finer and finer. He did find some success but it didn’t endure for long.

The top seed broke again in the fifth game to go 4-1 up and there was to be no looking back.

“It has been a great week for me,” said Roger Vasselin. “But it’s also very disappointing to lose. It’s a mixed feeling and I don’t know where my mind is right now.”

The 28-year-old Swiss’s ascent in 2013 came at a time when the domination of the ‘Big Four’ was becoming slightly tiresome – Nadal and Djokovic’s see-saw rivalry notwithstanding. His was a new narrative that everybody lapped up with joy.

While this year, there is expected to be no let off from the top four, one hopes Wawrinka’s journey does run parallel to theirs and crosses paths once in a while.

The indications for the same are already visible. Rafael Nadal won in Doha, Roger Federer was the finalist in Brisbane and Wawrinka the champion here. The 2014 season has started in earnest.

Brunstrom-Nielsen pair wins doubles

Fourth seeds Johan Brunstrom of Sweden and Frederik Nielsen of Denmark clinched the doubles title at the Aircel Chennai Open after defeating the unseeded Croatian pair of Mate Pavic and Marin Draganja 6-2, 4-6, 10-7.

The Scandinavian pair broke twice, in the sixth and the eight games, to take the first set 6-2 only for the Croats to level it at one set apiece by taking the second 6-4.

In the match tie-break, Brunstrom and Nielsen, clinched the title on their first championship point, winning it 10-7. This is Nielsen’s second title — first since the Wimbledon 2012 crown that he won with Jonathan Marray — and Brunstrom’s fourth.

The results:

Singles Finals: 1-Stanislas Wawrinka (Sui) bt 7- Edouard Roger Vasselin (Fra) 7-5, 6-2.

Doubles Finals: Johan Brunstrom (Swe) & Frederik Nielsen (Den) bt Mate Pavic (Cro) & Marin Draganja (Cro) 6-2, 4-6, 10-7.

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