Swiss veteran Stan Wawrinka insisted he still has “fire” in him after picking up his first victory in over a year with a 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 win over American Reilly Opelka in the first round of the Italian Open on Monday.
The 37-year-old, who has tumbled from his best ranking of number three in the world to 361st, last tasted success in the opening round of the 2021 Australian Open when he beat Marton Fucsovics in five sets.
This year he had previously lost in the opening rounds in the only two tournaments he had entered, in Marbella then Monte Carlo, after struggling with a long-term foot injury that has dogged him since 2019.
“After two surgeries, at my age, I could easily stop playing… but I still have this fire in me,” said Wawrinka.
“I still believe that I can play great tennis. I still believe that I make some big results, maybe not now, but in a few months.”
The crowd cheered warmly as the three-time Grand Slam winner completed victory over the world number 17 Opelka, a semi-finalist here last year, in just over two hours.
“It feels great because so much time I was away from tennis,” he said.
“I was completely outside of the tour. I did a lot of hard work to come back, so it feels great to finally win a match, to see that things are getting better.
“I still need a few more months to feel really where I want to be. I still have a lot of hard work to do, to play better, to have that time on the court, in the gym and all.”
“Physically I was feeling great. For sure when you don’t win a match in more than a year, you start to think always about it more than what you should and not focus on the right things,” said Wawrinka.
“I stayed positive. I started to feel much better with my tennis by the end of the second set, and the third set. I’m really happy with this victory.”