On the verge of dropping the first set at 3-5, Wawrinka found his best level to claim seven straight games and establish a commanding 7-5, 3-0 lead. After failing to capitalise on his first two match points, Wawrinka converted his third opportunity with a well-placed forehand volley.
“The beginning was a bit tough, I was hesitating, I was a bit slow, I was nervous and I was looking a little bit for the conditions,” said Wawrinka. “He took advantage, he broke me directly and then I started to play a little bit better. I started to know a bit more what I had to do. I broke back, he did one mistake and I did one good point and then suddenly the match turned. He felt under pressure, I started to play a bit better, more aggressive and I am happy with the win.”
The 34-year-old Swiss will be hoping to find his best form in the Principality after a second-round loss to Filip Krajinovic at the Miami Open presented by Itau. Wawrinka will meet Marco Cecchinato or Damir Dzumhur for a place in the third round. The World No. 36 has reached the quarter-finals or better in Monaco on five occasions.
“It is going to be an interesting [second-round] match for sure,” said Wawrinka. “[If I play] Dzumhur, we have played a few times but only on hard courts or indoors, so I know a little bit more how to play against him. I have never played or practised with Cecchinato. I saw him play many times, [he is a] great player, especially on clay courts. He loves the clay courts and he is a really good player, so it is going to be an interesting match.”
Borna Coric earned his 10th tour-level victory of 2019, which is just his second win in four appearances at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament. In a rain-delayed encounter, the 22-year-old overcame BNP Paribas Open quarter-finalist Hubert Hurkacz 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 in two hours and 52 minutes.
Coric needed two attempts to serve out the match after dropping serve at 5-4 in the decider, but recovered quickly to book his place in the second round. The ninth seed will face Jaume Munar or Lucas Catarina of Monaco for a spot in the third round.
Last year’s semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov also advanced, beating Matteo Berrettini of Italy 7-5, 6-4. The 27-year-old, who improves to 13-6 in Monte-Carlo, saved six of eight break points en route to victory.
In the only other singles match of the day, Argentine Guido Pella overcame two break points at 4-4 in the third set before beating Rio de Janeiro champion Laslo Djere 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-4 in two hours and 25 minutes. Pella will next play seventh seed Marin Cilic, whom he defeated last year at Wimbledon in five sets.