Croatia Open: Wawrinka reaches final with win over Sonego

Umag (Croatia), July 30 (IANS) Stan Wawrinka produced a commanding performance to beat Lorenzo Sonego 6-3, 6-4 at the Croatia Open to advance to his first ATP Tour final since he reached two in 2019, here.

Through to his 31st tour-level final (16-14), and his 14th on clay (7-6), Wawrinka is seeking his first title since he won Geneva in 2017.

The Swiss will meet Alexei Popyrin in the title match. Sunday’s final will be Wawrinka’s first since he underwent two left-foot surgeries in 2021 and fell out of the Top 300 of the ATP Rankings.

“I’m happy with the match. I think I played really well, the best match of the week,” said Wawrinka, who has moved up 23 places to No. 49 in the ATP Rankings behind his four straight-set wins this week.

“I’m really happy to be in the final tomorrow,” he added.

On Saturday, Wawrinka showed his full range in the victory, pairing powerful baseline blasts with deft touch. He saved the lone break point as he served out the opening set and escaped 0/30 to serve out the match after one hour, 26 minutes.

On the other hand, Sonego was denied his sixth ATP Tour final and what would have been his first since last year in Metz.

Wawrinka’s opponent in the summit clash — Popyrin — overcame Matteo Arnaldi 6-7(2), 7-5, 6-3 to reach his second ATP Tour final.

Popyrin, who lifted an ATP 250 trophy in Singapore in 2021, kept Arnaldi under constant pressure on return in the pair’s maiden ATP Head to Head series. He converted four of 19 breakpoints en route to a hard-earned three-hour, 16-minute triumph against the seventh-seeded Italian on the Croatian clay.

Popyrin has impressed on clay already in 2023. He reached the fourth round as a qualifier in May in Rome, where he defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime before pushing eventual finalist Holger Rune to three sets.

The Australian has risen 17 spots to No. 73 in the ATP Live Rankings as a result of his Umag run so far.

–IANS

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