‘Not the best prize but always special’ – Stan Wawrinka on 26th meeting with Novak Djokovic
Stan Wawrinka relishing a 26th career meeting with rival Novak Djokovic after setting their third round battle in Rome.
The Swiss veteran has defeated 2021 Italian Open semi-finalist Reilly Opelka and Serbian clay court specialist Laslo Djere to earn the right to face the five-time Rome champion.
While Wawrinka is excited for the prospect of facing Djokovic for the first time in nearly three years, he admits it will be a tough assignment.
He said according to Reuters: “It’s not the best prize, but it’s always special to play against [Djokovic].
“I’m not where I want to be yet with my game, with my fitness level, with my mental [game].
“I need those matches, so to have a chance to play against the best player, it’s going to be really difficult for me, that’s for sure.”
The former world number three has now played just three tour level matches since returning from a year away from competition, but is already facing the toughest of challenges by taking on the world number one.
While Wawrinka has won the last two encounters between the pair, those came in far different circumstances at the 2019 and 2016 US Opens in the fourth round and final respectively.
After receiving a first round bye, Djokovic has played just one match in the Eternal City, ousting Aslan Karatsev for the loss of just five games 6-3, 6-2.
Should Wawrinka pull off the upset he would also stop Djokovic from retaining his status as world number one, handing the spot back to Daniil Medvedev.
The Serb must reach at least the semi-finals in Rome to ensure he stays atop the ATP ladder next week and heading into Roland Garros.
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