MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Having dispatched one of his 2014 grand slam vanquishers to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals, Stan Wawrinka is now getting ready to face another on Wednesday.
Wawrinka avenged his early exit at last year’s French Open with a 7-6(2) 6-4 4-6 7-6(8) victory over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Monday to book his place in the last eight and now must face his U.S. Open nemesis Kei Nishikori.
“It’s always tough to play against him. He’s a great shot maker. He’s always taking the ball really early and doesn’t give you a lot of time,” Wawrinka said about Nishikori, who followed him into the quarter-finals with a 6-3 6-3 6-3 win over David Ferrer. “He’s a tough, tough player.”
The fourth-seeded Wawrinka has adopted a low-key approach to his title defense at Melbourne Park, swatting away questions about how last year’s experience could help him with a polite, but standard response -- that was last year.
The approach was evident again on Monday when asked if the five-set loss to Nishikori in the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows would have any influence on Wednesday’s clash.
”(We) start (at) zero again. It’s a new year,“ he said. ”Different conditions if I have to play him.
”If I can play heavy, if I can play my game, it’s tough for him to always take the ball early.
“We’ll see how I‘m going to deal with that.”
While the 29-year-old Swiss was keen to put the past behind him, at least his performance against Garcia-Lopez buried the memories of Roland Garros.
Wawrinka became the first Australian Open champion to lose in the first round at Roland Garros since Petr Korda in 1998 when Garcia-Lopez dumped him out last year and he did not have it easy against the 31-year-old this time around either.
Wawrinka had a two-set lead and a break in the third when he lost his focus and then had to overcome a 5-0 deficit in the fourth-set tiebreak before he saved five set points with some booming backhand drives.
Those lessons, he said, were something he would take into the next round.
”(This) level, it can change quickly. I made maybe two mistakes, then he started to play a little bit faster, a little bit more flat,“ added Wawrinka. ”I started to be defensive a little bit too much.
“I‘m happy to get through.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford/Sudipto Ganguly