Wawrinka: Comeback ‘Not A Miracle, But Very Difficult’

It has been 13 months and two left foot surgeries since Stan Wawrinka has competed in a tour-level event, but the former World No. 3 is back at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. Before his singles return Monday, the Swiss was brutally honest about the difficulty of his recovery.

“[It is] not a miracle, I wouldn’t say that, but it was very long and difficult, more than a year. I thought I would be [out] only a few weeks. It lasted a whole year with many moments of doubts. It was extremely long and tough,” Wawrinka said. “I really needed to have the willpower to come back, to have the strength to go through rehab and everything, and I’m very happy to be here now.”

After undergoing his first foot surgery last year on 25 March, Wawrinka wrote on social media, “I will be out for a few weeks but can’t wait to start practising again soon.” A couple of weeks later he posted a video of himself doing rehab at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. All seemed to be going well. On 2 May, he shared a picture of himself hitting his trademark one-handed backhand on the practice court.

But a devastating blow came for the 16-time tour-level titlist when in June he had to make another social media post from a hospital bed.

“Same place, different day, not where I wanted to be but still a smile on my face,” Wawrinka wrote.

The Swiss had underwent another foot surgery. Was he afraid he would never make it back?

“Of course there were those questions in my mind. I was afraid things wouldn’t happen the way I wanted them to happen, and when you have those difficult times and those doubts, you know you need to go through rehab to be able to live a normal daily life anyway,” Wawrinka said. “So in my mind, one way or the other, I knew I would want to come back. Maybe saying good-bye, having pain would be an option, but for the time being things are going well.

“I can practise a lot, which is good. I hope I’ll be able to do that the whole year.”

Now 37 and outside the Top 200 in the ATP Rankings, Wawrinka knows he has to work his way back into form, and that it will not happen with a snap of his fingers. Two weeks ago, he competed at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Marbella, where he lost in the first round against Swede Elias Ymer.

“Of course I’m far from being as fit as I want to. I need to work a lot physically and tennis-wise too,” Wawrinka said. “But this happens with tournaments, with matches, but I also am happy to be at that level right now compared to when I started playing again.”

Wawrinka knows competing at an event like the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters is challenging, with the world’s best players in the draw. But it is also an opportunity for him to regain rhythm at the top level.

“Mainly what I need is practise with the best players, [to] practise a lot. I only started playing again at the end of the month of February, so I don’t have a lot of tennis under my belt,” Wawrinka said. “I have to go through this. My level is pretty good in practice, but of course I need to find also my game during matches. The puzzle is a bit complicated. Sometimes you need time before you are able to coordinate all this.

“So I need to be patient with myself. I need to try to do the right things and practise a lot and stay positive, even if sometimes I feel very frustrated, because I can see what I need to do and I can’t do it.”

The 2014 Monte Carlo champion will try to continue making strides in the right direction, starting with his first-round match Monday against Alexander Bublik. It helps that Wawrinka is making his tour-level at a venue with which he is quite familiar.

“It’s a place I like very much. I spend a lot of time here at the club to prepare myself, to practise. I do a lot of my preparations here. The weather is ideal. The conditions are perfect,” Wawrinka said. “I won this tournament in 2014, and it’s a pleasure to be back here.”

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