Subscribe to our newsletter

He may not be ready, but Stan Wawrinka is excited for the Djokovic challenge in Rome nevertheless

A resurgent Stan Wawrinka is set to rekindle his iconic rivalry with Novak Djokovic on the red clay of Rome.

Stan Wawrinka Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Monte Carlo Masters – Monte-Carlo Country Club, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France – April 11, 2022 Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka in action during his first round match against Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik || 227597_0043

Hope springs eternal for Stan Wawrinka in the eternal city, as the Swiss has turned back the clock with a pair of physical, grinding wins at the Foro Italico to set a round of 16 clash with world No 1 Novak Djokovic. Today Wawrinka worked his way past Serbia’s Laslo Djere, 7-6(8), 3-6, 6-4, to win back-to-back matches on the ATP Tour for the first time since February of 2021.

The 37-year-old’s first two wins on tour in 15 months sets up a renewal of an old rivalry with Djokovic, one that dates back to the pair’s first meeting at Umag in 2006, and one that has spanned 16 years, 25 editions and a pair of stunning Grand Slam finals, both won by Wawrinka.

Wawrinka – I’m not where I want to be yet

Still, Djokovic holds the 19-6 edge over Wawrinka and the resurgent Swiss knows he has a way to go in his comeback before he can expect to win a match like this.

“Novak, it’s going to be tough, a tough challenge for sure,” Wawrinka said. “As I say, I’m not where I want to be yet. I need matches. I need practice. I need to spend time in the fitness. It’s a good challenge to play him, of course.

“I don’t think I’m ready to play at that level yet, but it’s going to be interesting to see. I need to get through those matches the next few months.”

Ready or not, Wawrinka is eager for the challenge, and hungry to get more high-quality matches under his belt as soon as possible. He knows he may be in over his head against Djokovic, a five-time Rome champion, but he says he needs these types of challenges to be able to understand where his level is and where he needs to improve to get his game back to top level.

“I’m looking forward for tomorrow,” Wawrinka said. “It’s going to be a really difficult challenge. It’s going to be a tough challenge to play against Novak, No. 1 player in the world. I doubt I’m where I want to be yet to play at that level. It’s going to be really difficult. But at the same time, I need to get through those matches to test myself and see what I still need to improve.”

I don’t think I’m ready to play at that level yet, but it’s going to be interesting to see. I need to get through those matches the next few months.

Stan Wawrinka on facing Novak Djokovic at Rome

Lowest-ranked in Rome’s round of 16 since 1995

At 361 in the world, Wawrinka earns the distinction of being the lowest-ranked player in the third round at Rome since Corrado Borroni in 1995. According to the ATP’s Live Rankings, Wawrinka is already up 106 spots to 255, and he could jump inside the top 200 if he defeats Djokovic on Thursday.

The pair have met in Rome before, in the 2008 final and the round of 16 in 2011, with Djokovic winning both matches.

Wawrinka – you cannot practice that feeling

The 37-year-old Swiss missed a year due to multiple surgeries to repair his left foot, and he is relishing his time back on court after a long, complicated rehab. He has been practicing well for a while, but says that there is no substitute for playing live matches in an incredible atmosphere.

“As I say, I need those matches,” he said after defeating Djere on Wednesday. “I need the competition. You cannot practice that feeling. You cannot practice that feeling of nerves, stress, the way you feel during the match, the way the body reacts. It was a bit up and down with my body, but I finish really strong. Was feeling much better at the end. I’m happy with that win.”

Your comments

Your email address will not be published.