Third seed Stan Wawrinka has had a respectable start to the 2017 season. The reigning US Open champion boasts a 14-5 win-loss record, reaching one final at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, last month losing to compatriot, the in-form Roger Federer. Wawrinka has reached two semifinals both Down Under, opting to compete in Brisbane, instead of Chennai. The Swiss number one lost to Kei Nishikori in Brisbane and to Federer in five sets at the Australian Open, which was controversial as the eventual Australian Open champion took a medical timeout. Wawrinka's last match was a month ago at the Miami Open when he lost to rising star Alexander Zverev in the fourth round in three sets.
Meanwhile, the world number three kickstarts his quest for a second title at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters against Jiri Vesely. The three-time Grand Slam champion won the French Open two years ago to clinch his second major and he will be hoping to get his European clay-court season off to a good start. Vesely portrayed arguably his best tennis to date in Monte Carlo last year, when he ended world number two Novak Djokovic's reign as champion in a sublime three set contest.
The 23-year-old has struggled in 2017 and he has a losing 7-8 win-loss record. He lost to compatriot Tomas Berdych in the second round in Doha, Marcos Baghdatis got the better of him in the quarterfinals in Auckland, and Gael Monfils swatted him aside in their first round encounter at the Australian Open. Vesely was winless in February losing to Sergiy Stakhvosky and Marcel Granollers respectively in Marseille and Dubai. However, the world number 54 snapped his losing streak in Indian Wells by defeating Renzo Olivo but lost to Gilles Muller in the second round. The Czech advanced to the third round in Miami losing to Jack Sock but during his first clay court event of the year, he lost to eventual champion Borna Coric in the semifinals in Marrakech. The leftie dispatched Mischa Zverev in straight sets to set up this mouthwatering second round encounter with Wawrinka.
Wawrinka defeated Vesely in their solitary meeting in the first round of the US Open in 2014. The three-time Grand Slam champion recorded a 6-2, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3) victory to advance to the second round in Flushing Meadows.
Despite not winning a title so far this year, the 2014 champion has performed well in 2017 and has a good chance of winning another Grand Slam title this year. Wawrinka's compatriot's Roger Federer has been dominating all of the headlines this year, as Federer was out of action for six months after Wimbledon. Federer returned at the Australian Open and shocked the tennis world by winning an unlikely but well-deserved 18th Grand Slam singles title and the Sunshine Double. Furthermore, Wawrinka has a chance to cement his position as the world number three in the world as Federer is not due to participate in any clay court tournaments until the French Open. The third seed reached the quarterfinals last year in Monte Carlo losing to eventual champion Rafael Nadal. Moreover, in his first clay-court match of the year, Wawrinka will need to hold onto his service games against Vesely, and he will try to break the tall Czech's serve and exploit Vesely's weaknesses.
Clay is Wawrinka's best surface as it gives him more time to unleash his formidable backhand shot. On the other hand, the world number 54 is a good server, and he has powerful groundstrokes which he portrayed against Djokovic last year. Vesely has a good chance to beat Wawrinka but it will be unlikely as the 2015 French Open champion should have too much firepower for his Czech opponent.
This will be the first match scheduled on Court Ranier III and the winner of this match will face clay-court specialist and 16th seed Pablo Cuevas in the third round. This section of the draw has opened up as 7th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga lost to countryman Adrian Mannarino in this round, however, Lucas Pouille is still lurking in the draw.
Prediction: Wawrinka in straight sets