After a long rehab from August surgery on his left knee, Stan Wawrinka is finally ready to return to tennis, and he’ll do so at the Australian Open, the tournament he broke through to win his first Grand Slam in 2014.
But the Swiss, who hasn’t played since Wimbledon, didn’t make that final call to give it a go until Saturday after practice in Melbourne.
“It’s the most important for me to be careful with the knee,” Wawrinka said. “That’s why I waited the last minute to decide if I was going to play or not. We decide with my team that the practice of today will make the decision if I’m ready or not.”
Wawrinka added that he still feels pain in his knee and that he’s a very long way from 100%.
“I’m feeling better,” he said. “I’m slowly getting there. First thing was 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.
“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.
“For me, I think the fact that I’m here and I’m going to play the first one, it’s a big victory. It’s the best that I could have dream when I had the surgery, is 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.”
He also returns without the services of longtime coach Magnus Norman.
“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. It was, for sure, tough to hear from him that he will stop at that moment,” Wawrinka said of the split.
“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.
“I’m working with Yannick [Fattebert], who was already since four or five years with me, part-time with Magnus also. He’s going to travel more with me. I’m looking. I’m thinking. But I had too much in my mind to really go to coach what I want. I have too much to be focused on my knee, my fitness, on getting back there, on my practice.”
Wawrinka will have an extra day before hitting the court Tuesday for his first round match against Ricardis Berankis.
“My main goal is first to get to the level I want to be physically and also tennis-wise,” Wawrinka added. “I know I need few weeks, month. I don’t know, I will see. That’s my first goal. Then I will decide what will be the next goal.”
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