ABU DHABI // Stanislas Wawrinka, rather than feeling disheartened following his opening-round defeat to Robin Soderling at the Capitala World Tennis Championship, walked off centre court at Zayed Sports City last night with a smile and sense of achievement. The young Swiss had shown grit and resolve to push the world No 8 to two consecutive tie-breakers, before eventually falling 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-2). Soderling will now meet Roger Federer in today's semi-final.
In yesterday's opening set, a determined Wawrinka fought back from a four-game deficit to lead the Swede 6-5, but Soderling showed his own mental strength - and brute force - to powerfully overwhelm his opponent. The second set was more balanced with each player winning their serve, until Soderling broke to make it 5-4. Wawrinka, who played Andy Murray in a thrilling match at Wimbledon in the summer, hit an instant reply though, to take the game to 5-5. Having been pushed to a tie-break once again, this time Soderling pulled away to comfortably close out the game and progress to the final four.
Wawrinka says he takes heart from pushing an ever-improving player all the way. His opponent, back in June, reached the final of the French Open, before losing to world No 1 Federer. "I find it inspiring to be so competitive against Soderling," said the world No 21, who could have set up a meeting with Federer, his compatriot. "That's the good thing about playing in exhibitions, when you lose you are not too sad because you are able take the positives. After the first game of the year, I am happy with my game and will use this to motivate me for the next few weeks."
Wawrinka's next stop is India, where he will compete in the Chennai Open, which starts next week. firstname.lastname@example.org