Wawrinka claims Japan Open title after clinical win over Paire


Staff Writer

Top-seeded Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland won his fourth ATP Tour title of the season on Sunday, defeating France’s Benoit Paire 6-2, 6-4 in the final of the Japan Open.

It was the first championship win in Japan for Wawrinka, the reigning French Open champion, and his four singles titles for the year marks a career high.

“It’s great for sure to win the championship here in Tokyo. This is a big tournament that the amazing players won (in the past) and top guys are playing before Shanghai (the next tournament on the ATP Tour),” said Wawrinka.

“I got a lot of support from my sponsor and old friends here. I’m glad to grab the trophy tonight.”

Playing with the roof closed at Ariake Colosseum, Wawrinka hit some well-angled ground strokes to set the early rhythm. The world No. 4 hit rallies to Paire’s backhand, which was erratic in the opening set, when Wawrinka broke his opponent three times to win.

But his backhand was not the only thing that bothered Paire. He also had to overcome an Achilles tendon injury.

“When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t walk and I was not sure I could play today,” Paire said. “I had my left ankle twisted earlier this week, but it was OK today.

“It was a different place. I saw the doctor and physical therapist. They put a lot of injections to my tendon before the match.”

Wawrinka was informed about the injury to Paire, one of his best friends on the ATP Tour.

“Before the match, he was struggling physically but he told me that he was ready to go full,” Wawrinka said.

“I played my best game. I was hitting the ball really well and I played really aggressive.”

Paire, who beat local favorite Kei Nishikori in Saturday’s semifinals, uses a serve-and-volley style to put his opponent under pressure, and that was effective in earning him a 4-4 tie midway through the second set, where the world No. 32nd-ranked Frenchman outdueled Wawrinka 5-2 on service aces.

Wawrinka, however, kept his service game in the ninth game of the set to end the tie and broke Paire in the next game to wrap up the championship.

The difference between winning and losing did not leave any hard feelings between the two.

“It was a dream for us to play each other in the final,” Paire said. “I lost to my friend and that’s why I’m not totally sad today.”

Sunday’s victory preserved Wawrinka’s undefeated record in finals this season. He has advanced to finals four times and won them all.

“It’s been more than two years since coming back to the top 10, winning some big titles and beating top guys. What I care (about) has been trying to improve and trying to do the right things,” Wawrinka said.

“It took me time to be at the top, but staying at the top, and talking and playing with the top players have given me the confidence. Winning four titles (in a year) is really amazing for me.”

The start of the match was delayed for 25 minutes because event organizers decided to close the roof due to rain.