After undergoing surgery on his left knee last summer, Stan Wawrinka took a seven-month break from tennis. Since his comeback at the Australian Open, he has been advancing slowly but surely. He begins his fourth Open 13 Provence campaign on Thursday, when he plays Belarusian Ilya Ivashka.
Stan, how are you feeling?
Things are advancing steadily. Obviously, with the surgery I had, recovery takes time. I need to focus on a lot of things. But, overall, things started looking up very quickly. I'm far from the level I want to be at, both physically and competitively. I have a lot of work to do, and it's going to take time to do it. I'm aware of this. But I'm very happy to be back playing tournaments, and back here in Marseille.
What improvements have you noticed?
My knee, my movements, my push-off, my pain levels: everything has improved a bit. I'm back in the game, I'm finding my bearings, I'm working on my reflexes. But I'm still not where I want to be. As I said, I knew it would take time. Unfortunately, there's no miracle solution when it comes to time. And training isn't the only thing that counts - matches are also important, for reflexes and changes in direction. All these factors need to be taken into account when you're coming back from surgery.
What are your goals?
Every time I play a tournament, my goal is to go as far as possible. In Sofia, I played three matches in a row for the first time in eight months. Obviously, my body was out of practice. That's another thing I have to manage. But the more matches I play, the better I get, and the more I progress. My biggest challenge is accepting my current level. I'm trying to stick to the programme, so I can keep moving forward. The fact that I'm competing again means that I know I'll be able to beat good players again one day. Like Troicki in Sofia. My goal is to keep fighting and making progress every day.
Why did you decide to slot Marseille into your schedule?
It's been planned for a long time. I decided before Wimbledon last year. I'm happy to be here for two reasons. Firstly because of my knee, but secondly because I couldn't make it in 2017.