Stan Wawrinka is back! The Swiss showed great form in Cincinnati this week and heads to the US Open beaming with confidence.
Stan Wawrinka heads to the US Open beaming with confidence after two strong weeks in Toronto and Cincinnati saw him defeat a host of quality players before falling 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-2 to Roger Federer late on Friday.
Exactly a year ago, Wawrinka had just undergone two knee surgeries (on August 5 and August 13) and was unsure if and when he’d be able to get back to his top level.
After six months out of the game, the 33-year-old Swiss returned to competition at the Australian Open in January, before taking another break from mid-February to mid-May to work on his fitness.
Prior to his third-round showing in Toronto last week, Wawrinka had posted just six wins this year, against 11 losses and was still searching for form.
But a win over Nick Kyrgios in Canada, followed by a battling victory over Marton Fucsovics, in which he saved four match points, were positive signs for the three-time Grand Slam champion, and he went down fighting in two tight sets against eventual champion and world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the last-16.
In Cincinnati, Wawrinka looked more and more like his vintage best, taking out the likes of Diego Schwartzman and Kei Nishikori on his way to the quarter-finals. Playing two matches in one day on Friday due to the rain-interrupted schedule, Wawrinka defeated Fucsovics for a second consecutive week, then gave Federer all sorts of trouble before losing in three sets.
“For sure it was a great level. I think I’m playing great in general,” said a proud Wawrinka after the defeat.
“I’m playing better every day, every week. Last week was really important and really good for myself, for my tennis, for my confidence. I played some good matches, tough matches, tough wins by not playing well, but then getting the confidence back. I practice a lot.
“I’m happy to see where I am right now. I had a tough match last week against Rafa. Close match, also. Today was against Roger. They are No. 1 and No. 2 in the world. I beat Schwartzman, I beat Nishikori, so the level is good.”
A champion at the US Open in 2016, Wawrinka has suddenly catapulted himself into the title contender conversation for New York but he insists it is more important for him to think long-term and where he will be at the start of next season, knowing he still has a lot to work on.
“I need to keep improving, keep working, keep doing the right thing and keep pushing myself. For sure tonight I’m sad and disappointed to lose, but for me it’s a big victory for myself after what I had last year. It was exactly one year ago. To see where I was also few weeks ago, I’m really happy to be here,” explained Wawrinka, who is expected to return to the top-100 when the new rankings are released on Monday.
“For me, it’s kind of transition year, because I knew I didn’t start the year full. I had a lot of trouble with my knee, so I didn’t play the full year. So it’s more kind of a year to really push myself to get the proper ranking at the end of the year, get a lot of match, and get fit to make a great preparation for next year.”
Reunited with his former coach Magnus Norman, Wawrinka is happy to have the Swede back in his corner as he navigates this tricky comeback journey.
“I feel like that what happened last year it’s really far, but in the same times, if I’m remember few weeks ago, it was still really tough for me,” he added.
“I needed a lot of talk with my team, a lot of focus on the right thing, accepting things that’s happening, accepting that it takes time, that you need to be patient, knowing where you want to go.
“You need to do the right things every day and take a little bit distance with the result directly; not the result, I mean, winning matches but the result of how you improved, because you can have a lot of up-and-down after a big surgery like that.
“So that’s always tough that mentally you need to accept. But for sure today it’s easy to talk about it, but I had some really tough moments.”
Federer, who also had to play twice on Friday, entered his seventh career Cincinnati semi-final, where he takes on Belgium’s David Goffin. The Swiss has never lost a semi-final here and is happy he managed to scrape through against Wawrinka.
“Stan has the power, and I’m so glad he’s back on the tour and playing well and moving well,” said Federer.
“So I really enjoyed the match for what it was. It’s difficult to always play against him but I’m happy I was able to find a way in the breaker in the second, because it was a frustrating night for me, for the most period, and in the third I was able to find a way.”
Wawrinka has received a wildcard into the US Open main draw, which begins on Monday August 27.