INDIAN WELLS: Roger Federer has no doubt Stan Wawrinka will be back in the top 10 before long as his Swiss compatriot continues his climb back in the wake of knee surgery.
Federer and Wawrinka, who won Olympic doubles gold in 2008 and a Davis Cup title in 2014, will fight for a fourth-round berth at the ATP Indian Wells Masters on Tuesday -- the 25th meeting in a rivalry that Federer has dominated.
"Don't remind me of the stats," Wawrinka quipped after gutting out a 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5 second-round victory over Marton Fucsovics.
Wawrinka needed 3 hours and 24 minutes and five match points to subdue the 31st-ranked Hungarian on Saturday night.
Wawrinka saved 21 of 25 break points he faced -- and converted 17 of 23 against Fucsovics.
Osaka keeps Indian Wells title defense on track
The Swiss faced a dozen break points in the third set alone, including four at 6-5 as he tried to serve out the match.
Two games later he finally managed it as Fucsovics lofted a lob long.
"It was a tough battle, fighting, staying there physically, tennis-wise, mentally also," said Wawrinka, a three-time Grand Slam champion and former world number three who said it's the kind of match that will take his comeback to the next level.
"Those are the matches I know can help me to get some big results," said Wawrinka, who is currently ranked 40th in the world.
Osaka turns tables on Mladenovic, Venus rallies at Indian Wells
A match with Federer is another one to relish, Wawrinka said, despite their lopsided record.
"He's the best player to ever play the sport," Wawrinka said. "I think it's great for me."
Federer, who has won their last five encounters -- including the 2017 Indian Wells final -- said an in-form Wawrinka is an opponent to be wary of.
"I know what he can do," Federer said. "He's got all the different options how to win points. He's a fighter and a winner.
"I hope he's going to be in the top 20, top 10 very soon again."