Stan Wawrinka pre-tournament interview
Stan Wawrinka talks to the press about his preparation for the 2018 Australian Open.
Former Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka believes his last-minute decision to make his comeback after knee surgery at Melbourne Park this week is the right call, despite lingering pain in the joint.
Wawrinka, who lifted the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup in 2014 and reached the semifinals last year, admitted he would be cautious on his return to action, six months removed from his run to the Roland Garros final and first-round exit at Wimbledon.
Concern grew for the 32-year-old’s prospects of playing following his withdrawal from Wednesday’s Tie Break Tens event in Melbourne, but while Wawrinka said he wasn’t ready to play the quick-fire event against a top-class field, he is keen to test his knee if nothing else this week.
“I'm here, so I'm better,” Wawrinka said. “It's been six months now. It's been tough, really tough, to get back on the place to be able to play again. But I'm feeling better. I'm slowly getting there.
“First thing was the last-minute choice to come here for a week to practice without knowing if I would be able to play or not. But I think was the right choice after few months being home, practicing a lot to get my knee a little bit better.
“It was important to get pushed, to practice with the top guys, to practice a lot more than normally because it's the first week I had the chance to play points and practice at a high level. I know I'm not at the level I want to be yet because it's a long process to get there. But I'm happy with the way the knee is handling.”
Wawrinka, seeded No.9 and facing Lithuania’s Rikardas Berankis in the first round, admitted he was still experiencing pain in the knee. He remains in touch with his surgeon back in Switzerland to provide feedback on his progress: “He always told me that it was a big surgery, that it was a complicated one, and it was important to take the time, not to rush, really follow all the process to get there. He knows exactly the pain I feel, the pain I don't feel.”
There will also be a change in Wawrinka’s entourage, with coach Magnus Norman calling time on one of the most successful partnerships in recent years in October to spend more time with his family. The news came as a shock to the three-time Grand Slam champion, who will be coached by Yannick Fattebert in Melbourne.
“It was already a tough, tough, tough moment for myself, to be out, to get surgery, to know that it will take at least six months to be back at a place where I can play tennis again,” Wawrinka recalls of Norman’s departure. “It was, for sure, tough to hear from him that he will stop at that moment.
“For me, Magnus, he was my coach, but he was a friend, even closer than a friend. It was tough to know that he will not be here to start again with me. I was more sad than angry at him. At the end of the day, I will always be grateful for all the work we've done together the past many years, winning Grand Slam with him. That's what I want to keep from our relationship.”