Stan Wawrinka expressed his delight — and also relief — on Saturday that he is back at the Australian Open, scene of his 2014 triumph, after a six-month lay-off due to a knee injury.
Although his left knee is still painful, and he isn’t taking pain-killing injections, the fact that the Swiss star is in Melbourne is a victory for the three-time Grand Slam championship winner.
“For sure I was worrying a lot because I had eight weeks on crutches,” said Wawrinka at his pre-tournament press conference on Saturday.
”I started my first fitness by just walking. The thing is, it’s always complicated when you’re like at that level before, you get an injury, you can get through pain mentally also, you‘re feeling lonely, not feeling good.
”It’s tough to explain because some people will always think, ‘C‘mon, you have an amazing life, why do you complain, why do you complain about feeling not great?’”
Wawrinka has been drawn to meet Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis in the Australian Open first round. He has practised with Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Tomas Berdych and Gael Monfils over the past seven days.
“I think the fact that I’m here and I’m going to play the first one, it’s a big victory,” said Wawrinka. “It’s the best that I could have dreamt of when I had the surgery, to be here sitting in front of you and to say, ‘Okay, I’m going to play the first match.’
“That’s something really good from my side, especially from the knee. The knee is getting way better. I still have a lot of work to do physically and also tennis-wise to be to my top level.”
Wawrinka had appeared at 50 straight Grand Slam championships before missing 2017 US Open and ending season following two left knee surgeries in August 2017. He also underwent right knee surgery in February 2007.