Swiss superstar Roger Federer has won 19 of 22 career meetings with Stan Wawrinka.
Yet despite such overwhelming dominance in their career series, the 18-time major champion is not taking Wawrinka lightly.
Federer and Wawrinka each arrived at the title match following straight-sets wins on Saturday, after which Federer was asked about the looming battle against his compatriot.
“I’m not sure if it’s a good matchup,” Federer said.
“I have maybe a good head-to-head and a lot of those matches … came early when I was the overwhelming favourite when I was maybe still world No.1 and he was 30 in the world and his game was based heavily on the clay courts. Snuck in a lot of victories there maybe in the beginning.
“In recent times, I thought we played a lot of close matches, and he was also able to dominate me over a set or two sets, maybe, on the faster courts, maybe Wimbledon, maybe in other places, here as well, indoors as well he’s done it.
“So I don’t see it per se as a huge advantage. I think he’s cleaned up his game really nice on the faster court. He’s the reigning US Open champ and back in his first American tournament.
“And I think he does a really nice job of defending and then going from defence to offence. He’s improved his serve. Especially as he goes deeper in the tournament, confidence builds. That’s when he’s harder to stop.”
Although Wawrinka’s three wins have all come on clay, they’ve also all come in big matches.
He beat Federer in the Monte Carlo final of 2014 and followed that up the next year with a quarterfinal victory over Federer at Roland Garros.
In their last meeting, on hard court in the semifinals of Australian Open 2017, Wawrinka extended the eventual champion to five sets despite visibly suffering with a knee injury.
The world No.3 has also won 11 of his last 12 tournament finals.
Yet despite being wary of what Wawrinka can bring, Federer is nonetheless confident about his chances going into a seventh final at Indian Wells – especially after being the player to successfully navigate the loaded bottom quarter of the men’s draw.
“I have variation. I have an offensive mindset that’s in my DNA. And sometimes for a player like Stan, he likes to have a bit more time and I can maybe rush him,” Federer said.
“I feel great. I forgot how tough the draw actually was. I got definitely lucky in the quarters against Kyrgios and not having to play against him because he was clearly playing very well.
“Then again, that took care of my section of the draw with Steve Johnson and also especially with Rafa, put myself in the position to be in the quarters.
“I’m able to keep going today which I’m very happy about. Next thing you know, from looking at that section of the draw as, like, a mountain to climb, next thing you know you’re in the finals and flying.
“It’s very fascinating how quick can things can turn your way if you play well and you believe and you’re having a good time.”
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