By Melanie Burton
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka survived a scare from Slovakia’s Martin Klizan on Monday, fighting back from a break down in the final set to move into the Australian Open second round with a 4-6 6-4 7-5 4-6 6-4 victory.
“It was a big fight tonight,” 2014 champion Wawrinka said on court after the match. “[The comeback] came from fighting every day, on and off the court. It was a great atmosphere here and I am happy to be back. He was playing well, he was close to winning. It was a tough match.”
It took the world number four more than three hours to subdue his left-handed opponent to cries of “Allez Stan” from the crowd in the Margaret Court arena.
For long periods of the match Weawrinka was far from his best with errors flowing from his racket.
But as a pink dusk descended, Wawrinka slowly found the range on his groundstrokes to move ahead, although the outcome remained in the balance until the final few minutes.
Klizan, who had chances to win the second set, looked favorite when he broke to lead in the decider but Wawrinka doggedly held on and broke from nowhere to make it 4-4.
In the following game he struck the 35th ranked Klizan with a ferocious forehand from point-blank range — immediately jumping over the net to check on his winded opponent.
Serving to stay in the match Klizan had no luck with a challenge at 30-30 — the replay showing Wawrinka’s flashing winner had found a line — and the Slovak bowed out when he netted a forehand on Wawrinka’s first match point.
It preserved Wawrinka’s record of never having lost in the first round of the Australian Open, although it was a close call. The Swiss will face American Steve Johnson next.
“For sure it’s a big relief, especially when you’re a break down in the fifth, 4-3, 40-15. So I’m really happy to get through,” U.S. Open champion Wawrinka told reporters.
“I also know where I am right now. I think in general I’m playing well. I’m physically ready. Most important is to win. The next one is a different match, different day.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond and Martyn Herman)