QF previews and picks: Wawrinka vs. Lopez, Montanes vs. Monfils

Stanislas Wawrinka is the only Swiss and top seed remaining in the Gstaad draw now that Roger Federer is out. He will continue his campaign on Friday against Feliciano Lopez. Meanwhile in Umag, Gael Monfils and Albert Montanes are looking for a semifinal spot. Chris Skelton previews the action.

(5) Feliciano Lopez vs. (2) Stanislas Wawrinka

The history between these two men, albeit brief, has unfolded more or less as one would expect. Lopez has troubled Wawrinka in their two meetings on indoor hard courts, winning once, while Wawrinka turned the tables in their only clay matchup to date. The vintage serve-volley tactics of the Spaniard benefit from a fast surface on which points stay shorter, whereas clay showcases the physical baseline game of the Swiss star.

Lopez may have more reason to hope than usual on the Gstaad clay, relatively slick and at a high altitude that favors fine servers. He also should bring confidence from a recent title in Eastbourne, where he used his grass-friendly game to upset Fernando Verdasco and Gilles Simon. Translating success from grass to clay is easier said than done, but Lopez did record two straight-set victories already this week.

Hard-pressed throughout his first match, Wawrinka rose to the occasion when the situation demanded against clay specialist Daniel Gimeno-Traver. The Swiss No. 2 has enjoyed the best season of his career so far, recording a string of victories over Top 10 opponents such as David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Some of those accomplishments have come on clay, where Wawrinka has reached a Roland Garros quarterfinal and a Masters 1000 final in addition to winning a title. He never has won the title at this home tournament, finishing runner-up before, but he has become the title favorite after Roger Federer exited on Thursday.

The lefty serve and arrhythmic playing style of Lopez should keep this match close, forcing Wawrinka to sharpen his focus. All the same, the home hope holds too strong a surface edge and too much momentum from recent months to call an upset.

Skelton pick: Wawrinka in 2

Dimon pick: Wawrinka in 2


Albert Montanes vs. Gael Monfils

A Frenchman always seemed likely to reach the weekend in Umag, just not this particular Frenchman. Top seed Richard Gasquet fell in his opening match to the man who battles Gasquet’s compatriot on Friday. Montanes turned around a history of futility against Gasquet with that victory, but now he will hope to continue his dominance over Monfils. While Monfils won their only hard-court meeting, the Spanish dirt devil has won all four of their previous clashes on clay.

Two of those matches came this year in Monte-Carlo and Nice. Looking to turn the tide, Monfils can gain confidence from remembering that he took Montanes to a final set on the first occasion and nearly on the second. Both matches followed the same trend, Monfils starting slowly and spotting his opponent a comfortable first set before finding his range midway through the match. Both times, though, Montanes held firm under the pressure to close out the superior server and shot-maker across the net.

Monfils thus needs to start this match in finer form, and strong efforts in his previous two matches suggest that he could. If anything, Montanes has looked the slightly more vulnerable of the two in the early stages, although he has advanced in straight sets as well. Expect plenty of grinding, arduous rallies played from well behind the baseline, a test of patience and fitness. The recent history between them makes Montanes the smart choice but not an overwhelming favorite.

Skelton pick: Montanes in 3

Dimon pick: Monfils in 3


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