Down a set, Wawrinka rallies to reach Prague Challenger quarterfinals

Down a set, Wawrinka rallies to reach Prague Challenger quarterfinals

The three-time Grand Slam champion is playing back-to-back Challengers—his first events at that level since 2010—as the men's tour makes its comeback from the coronavirus break.

Former world No. 3 Stan Wawrinka kept shaking off the rust in his first event back on Wednesday, battling past No. 217-ranked Oscar Otte in his second match of the Prague Challenger, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.

Wawrinka, who at No. 17 is ranked 200 spots higher than Otte, was two games from going out as he trailed, 6-3, 5-5, but he came alive from there, winning five games in a row to take the second set and build a 3-0 lead in the third. Otte fought off break point in the next game and held to make it 3-1, but Wawrinka’s momentum was too strong at that point, and he won three more games to close it out.

Otte sent a forehand return long on match point to end it after an hour and 54 minutes.

It was Wawrinka's second three-setter in two matches so far this week. In his first match, he lost the middle set but eventually cruised past No. 178-ranked Russian Roman Safiullin, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.

The No. 1-seeded Swiss is now through to the quarterfinals of the clay-court event, where he’ll face the No. 6 seed, Sumit Nagal of India. Nagal is perhaps best known for qualifying for his first Grand Slam main draw at the US Open last year and taking a set off of Roger Federer in the first round.

And at No. 127, he’s also the highest-ranked player from India on the ATP rankings.

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Wawrinka, a three-time Grand Slam champion at the 2014 Australian Open, 2015 French Open and 2016 US Open, is kicking off his comeback to competition with back-to-back Challenger events in Prague.

At a press conference earlier this week, he expressed how happy he is to be back on the court.

“These were many difficult months for everybody,” the 35-year-old said. “I’m looking forward to being back and playing some matches here. It’s important to restart the season again with these two tournaments in Prague. For me, it was nice to spend time at home with my daughter when we were in quarantine. That was the positive for me. But I’m happy to be playing again now.”

Wawrinka isn't the only marquee name who made the trip to Prague this week. Former Top 10 player Ernests Gulbis and former Top 20 player Philipp Kohlschreiber both reached the third round too, but they both went out on Wednesday—Gulbis fell to Russian Aslan Karatsev, 6-3, 6-3, while Kohlschreiber had to withdraw prior to his match against Czech Michael Vrbensky due to a stomach ache.