Sofia QF preview and prediction: Wawrinka vs. Troicki

Stan Wawrinka and Viktor Troicki will be facing each other for the ninth time in their careers when they meet again in the Sofia Open quarterfinals on Friday evening.

This is one of the most lopsided matchups on the ATP Tour right now, with Wawrinka having win all eight of their previous encounters. The Swiss has defeated Troicki twice in each of the past three seasons and he is 2-0 overall on indoor hard courts (Paris in 2015 and St. Petersburg in 2016). Wawrinka prevailed early last year in Brisbane (straight sets) and at the Australian Open (in a fourth-set tiebreaker).

If there is any good news for Troicki, however, it’s that he is running into a different Wawrinka at this point. The 32-year-old missed the last four months of the 2017 campaign due to an injury and struggled upon his return in Melbourne, scraping past Ricardas Berankis despite an uneven performance and losing to Tennys Sandgren. Following a first-round bye in Sofia as the No. 1 seed, Wawrinka overcame Martiz Klizan 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 on Thursday.

“I expected a tough match; [Klizan has] already played a few matches here,” the world No. 14 noted. “I just tried to focus on my game, find the right shots and be aggressive…. I know Viktor is playing really well here and I’m expecting a tough match. I’m going to try and rest now to be ready for tomorrow.”

Troicki endured a pair of three-setters on his way to the last eight, edging Ernests Gulbis 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-3 and Denis Istomin 7-6(4), 1-6, 7-6(5). The 67th-ranked Serb won 10 fewer points than Istomin in round two and trailed by a break in the third set before prevailing after two hours and seven minutes. Troicki is still just 3-3 on the season, having previously suffered early losses in Doha, Sydney, and at the Australian Open.

Although this is a decent opportunity for Troicki, Wawrinka did well to battle past Klizan while raising his level when necessary over the final two sets. In what is likely to be a competitive contest, the underdog’s past failures against Wawrinka may be a difficult mental hurdle to overcome.

Pick: Wawrinka in 3

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