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Stan Wawrinka Preaches Patience in Queen’s Club 2018 Tennis Return

By Richard Pagliario


LONDON —Lawn tennis has long been a slippery slope for Stan Wawrinka.


Now, Wawrinka is trying to turn turf into a revival ground.


The 33-year-old Swiss opened Queen’s Club on Monday with a 6-2, 6-3, win over British wild card Cameron Norrie.


It was Wawrinka’s first win since he defeated Jared Donaldson in Geneva on red clay in May as he tries to produce a positive grass-court season a year after hobbling out of his Wimbledon opener.


A pair of left knee surgeries last year and injury-induced inactivity have caused Wawrinka’s ranking to drop to No. 261—his lowest mark in 15 years.


Yet, the three-time Grand Slam champion says he’s drawing pleasure from merely playing and practicing after nearly a year of pain.


“Right now [I’m enjoying it], yes, for sure, because I didn’t win many matches in a year, and I didn’t play many matches in a year,” Wawrinka said after advancing to a Queen’s Club second-rounder vs. Sam Querrey. “Especially today I feel that I’m playing well, I’m moving well. So I feel really myself as a tennis player. So for sure I enjoy way more than in the past. But it’s normal also because I have been out for so long.”


A year ago, Wawrinka arrived in London fresh off the French Open final with a shot to seize the world No. 1 ranking at Wimbledon.


Then Wawrinka fell to Daniil Medvedev in his SW19 opener, starting an odyssey of surgery, rehab a split with long-time coach Magnus Norman and subsequent reconciliation this spring.


The 2016 US Open champion is preaching patience as he tries to find his form and solidify strength in his knee after managing just one win during clay-court season.


“I know when I got the surgery that it will be really long and really tough, not only physically but especially mentally,” Wawrinka told the media in London. “I said many times for the first month—for me, first you have to separate every injury, because we don’t have to deal with the same problem and the same things physically or mentally. So we are all different in the way to come back.


“That’s the first thing you have to look. And for me it was really tough, because I had to start from zero physically.”


Mentally, Wawrinka has faced multiple challenges, too.


The work Wawrinka has put in on the practice court and the gym will take time to produced dividends on court.


“When I say it’s tough, it’s not only about the physical aspect, because we are used to practice, we are used to do the hard work,” Wawrinka said. “We are used to put a lot of time in the gym and on the fitness and the tennis court. But mentally, it’s tough when you see how far you are and how long it will take. Still now, it’s not easy mentally.”


Seeing fellow Grand Slam champions Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic also battle injuries reminds Wawrinka he must temper his own expectations during his comeback season.


“I need to be really patient with myself, to accept less in a way, because when you win Grand Slam and especially me, I always expect so much from myself and always push myself to the maximum and never really happy with what I’m doing, so when you be out on the tour so long, you need to a little bit put your expectation a little bit lower and accept that, because it takes time,” Wawrinka said. “It takes time to get where you want to be, and not because you’re doing the wrong thing but just because it is how it is when you have big surgery. So I think I’m getting better now, because I also see that my level is getting better.”


For Wawrinka, improvement is measured in incremental steps rather than results at this point.


“I improved a lot physically and I am getting closer at least in the practice court. But I know that the next few months will not be that easy, neither,” Wawrinka said. “So I just need to take every match, every win as something really positive and keep doing the right job every day to give myself chance to come back quickly to the top level.”


The 13th-ranked Querrey will be a major measuring stick after his run to the Wimbledon semifinals last summer. Wawrinka has won five of six meetings vs. Querrey, including a 6-2, 6-2, victory at the 2014 Queen’s Club.


Wawrinka is hoping a return to grass can jump-start his season.


“Well, for sure in January I was not ready physically with my knee,” Wawrinka said. “I was just trying to handle the courts, trying to win matches. Now I think my game is there. I think in the practice court I’m playing really strong tennis. I feel positive with myself. I just need to see what’s going to happen in the next few weeks on grass.”

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