They both possess crisp one-handed backhands; both have a win against each other and both enjoy competing on a hard court. But that’s about where the similarities ended as Stanislas Wawrinka advanced to the Australian Open’s second round when Andrey Golubev retired with injury. The eighth seed led 6-4 4-1 at the time.
Ranked world No.8 to Golubev’s No.85, Wawrinka entered his third match against the Kazakhstani player with his first 2014 title already secured, after defeating Eduordo Roger-Vasselin to claim Chennai. Golubev, by contrast, tried and failed to qualify for both Brisbane and Sydney. Moreover, while Wawrinka was a semifinalist at the US Open in 2013, Golubev has never advanced beyond the second round of a major.
While all those factors already worked against the less-experienced Golubev, the task was made even tougher today as he was treated several times for a calf injury throughout their abbreviated meeting.
The efficient Wawrinka had already claimed a pair of service breaks when the trainer first appeared on court to treat the problem calf. Wawrinka suffered a brief concentration lapse when he failed to serve out the opening set when he first had his first opportunity at 5-3 but was never really troubled by Golubev, the four aces and a 91 percent conversion rate on his first serve pointing to the Swiss’ early efficiency.
“I am very sorry for him but that’s going to happen,” Wawrinka commented on court afterwards. “I am really happy to be back here after a great match last year.”
If not quite the test he would have liked, spending less time on court on a hot Melbourne day was perhaps also welcome for Wawrinka, who will face either Colombian Alejandro Falla, or another Kazakstani, Mikhail Kukushin, in the second round.
The 28-year-old Wawrinka, now ranked just two rankings places behind his superstar countryman Roger Federer, is no doubt expecting a strong run at the season’s opening Grand Slam, having pushed Novak Djokovic to 12-10 in the fifth set of Australian Open 2013 in an epic fourth round match.
Wawrinka, recently named Swiss Personality of the Year, considered that performance a turning point – and it was hard to argue after his best year on tour, in which he claimed a title and tested Djokovic in another marathon five-setter in the US Open semis to finish in the top 10 for the first time in his career.
It wasn’t quite a turning point for Wawrinka today, but still a welcome reminder of his increasing capability at a major level.