Down a set and a break to Reilly Opelka, Stan Wawrinka came back to seize his first victory since February 2021. In the meantime, two surgeries, a long rehab and many doubts for the three-time Grand Slam champion. For this reason, this victory felt especially important for the Swiss against an opponent that does not let you get into match rhythm with his powerful serve and first shots. Nonetheless, he did not stop fighting when he found himself back against the wall.
“You just have to stay positive and try to fight,” he explained: “You know if you get a bit lucky, if you show him that you going to stay there, you going to get some chance. I got some chance. I played better. He started to miss few, start to change a bit. Yeah, I’m really happy.”
It was not pretty, at times, but it was what Wawrinka needed as after a year away from tennis, the feeling of victory is an important piece in a comeback.
“I think it feels great because so much time I was away from tennis. I was completely outside of the tour. I did a lot of hard work to come back, so it feel great to finally win a match, to see that things are getting better. I’m feeling much better in practice. I’ve been practicing really hard to move better, to feel better. I know that my game will get there. I feel confidence with that. I just need a few more months to be where I want to be. But in general it’s already a big step ahead.”
The biggest part in the comeback journey was spent in the gym, as a foot surgery does not allow much more activities.
“There is no shortcut. I gained some weight. It was tough. With the foot surgery, you can’t do much. I needed a lot of effort to be back. Already last few weeks since Monaco is much better. As I say, I still need few more months to feel really where I want to be. I still have a lot of hard work to do, to play better, to have those time on the court, in the gym and all”.
Despite the great motivation, the months away from the tour were not easy and the fear of not being able to ever return was a ghost that had to be cast out.
“Last year there were some tough moments where you feel that you are way too far to be able to come back. It took me a lot of time, a lot of physio, a lot of rehab, a lot of time in the gym just to be able to start running again. Of course, the mental part was important. But as I said many times, for me the main reason was that I didn’t want to stop by being injured just like that. The second reason is anyway I needed to do kind of rehab to be able to walk, to be able to run, to be able to live a normal life anyway”.
Patience is a virtue and Wawrinka seems to have learnt that. His win today was a step in the right direction and a confirmation that time will pay off. For now, we are delighted to see such a great champion fighting his heart out here in Rome.
“As I say, after two surgery, at my age I could easily stop playing because my career is way better than what I expected when I grew up, when I was young. But I still have this fire on me. I still believe that I can play great tennis. I still believe that I make some big results, maybe not now, but in few months”.