Indian Wells (United States), March 9: Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka made a triumphant return to Indian Wells, rallying for 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-3 victory over British qualifier Daniel Evans to reach the second round.
It was a rematch of Wawrinka�s four-hour, five-set victory over Evans in the third round of the 2016 US Open � where the Swiss would go on to claim his third Grand Slam crown.
�He�s always a tough player to play, for sure,� Wawrinka said. �He�s mixing a lot, especially on conditions like today when it�s windy. With his slice, he feels the ball really well. He�s mixing his game, serve and volley, sometimes coming, sometimes not, passing well.
�So I�m happy to get through a match like today,� he added.
Wawrinka, on the rise after 18 months battling injury and recovering from double knee surgery, was runner-up in the California desert in 2017, but missed the combined ATP Masters and WTA event last year.
While top seeds led by World No. 1 Novak Djokovic enjoyed first-round byes, 40th-ranked Wawrinka gutted out a two-hour, eight-minute clash with 100th ranked Evans.
Wawrinka saved all six break points he faced in the deciding set, battling back from 0-40 down in the fifth game and pushing to a 5-3 lead.
He held at love to line up a second-round meeting with 29th-seeded Hungarian Marton Fucsovics.
�I think for me this year it�s for sure special because I�m happy to be back,� said Wawrinka, whose run to the final in Rotterdam last month was his first final since Roland Garros in June of 2017.
He hasn�t lifted a trophy since Geneva in May of 2017, but says his Rotterdam run put his comeback in a new phase.
�It helped me a lot to put away a little bit of pressure of knowing that you play well but (are) not winning too many matches,� Wawrinka said.
Fifth-seeded South African Kevin Anderson�s challenge ended before it began as he withdrew from the tournament with a right elbow injury that has nagged him since a second-round exit at the Australian Open.
In other first-round matches, German Peter Gojowczyk defeated Italian Andreas Seppi 7-5, 6-4 to set up a second round meeting with fourth-seeded Roger Federer, who is coming off a remarkable 100th career title in Dubai.
Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin beat Spain�s Jaume Munar 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 to advance to a meeting with eighth-seeded American John Isner and Aussie qualifier Alex Bolt also advanced with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 victory over Ernests Gulbis.
Popyrin, 19 and ranked 131 in the world, notched his first win in a Masters 1000 event and will now try to take out his second top 10 opponent this year after beating Dominic Thiem at the Australian Open. � AFP