Stan Wawrinka trailed after a break in the first game, but fought his way back in the next. He trailed after losing the second set 4-6 after another early break. He trailed in the opening service game of the deciding set.
But he never succumbed to the pressure and was able to defeat rising star Dominic Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (2) in a quarterfinal that was often uncomfortable to watch in its early stages
Both players looked unsettled in the early going, and the Thursday night crowd was restless, urging on whichever player seemed more likely to establish momentum. Even the TV producers had trouble finding enough interesting moments to put into the pre-commercial cutscenes (eventually settling on some crowdshots and a long cut of a frustrated Wawrinka).
The officiating was bad, both players were frustrated, and neither could establish himself in the match enough to impose his will for more than a few games. The point that perhaps encapsulated the match up to that point came at 3-4, 40-30. Wawrinka dictated with his backhand, and Thiem countered with a dazzling forehand that cracked like a liquid whip. But the point ended with Wawrinka guiding a put away forehand volley into the middle of the net, a perfect metaphor for the first two sets of the match.
The final set proved to be much more exciting, however, culminating in a deciding tiebreak that saw the 3-time Grandslam champion get through to his first semifinal at Indian Wells.
Wawrinka snagged an early break, but Thiem hung in and forced some excellent tennis from both players in a match that had lacked much spectacular shot making until that point. Both played thrilling tennis in the final set, but it was the more experienced Wawrinka that ultimately prevailed. Resilience was the word of the day for Wawrinka as he relied on his mentality to win a match where he didn’t play his best.
He won on a day where neither player had his A game. He won by stubbornly hanging around for his opportunity.
Oftentimes, players who receive a second wind before the later stages of a tournament play more relaxed and less tense. And certainly a Wawrinka with nothing to lose is a dangerous prospect for any player.
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