Novak Djokovic pleased to see ‘big champion’ Stan Wawrinka back on tour
World number one Novak Djokovic stated that it is “great to see” Stan Wawrinka competing on the ATP tour again after recording his 20th victory over the Swiss to reach the last eight of the Italian Open.
The former French Open champion Stan Wawrinka was playing just his second event on the ATP circuit after a year out due to a foot injury.
In Rome, Wawrinka returned to winning ways as he claimed his first victories since his spell on the sidelines.
The 37-year-old showed some flashes of his best in wins over world number 17 and the 2021 Italian Open semi-finalist Reilly Opelka and Serbia’s Laslo Djere.
However he was no match for the 20-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic, as the Serb comfortably reached his 16th career quarter-final in Rome on Thursday after defeating Wawrinka 6-2, 6-2 as he pursues a record-extending 38th career Masters 1000 title.
The win meant Djokovic improved his head-to-head record against the Swiss to 20-6 and also is one win away from ensuring that he will remain at the summit of the ATP rankings as he must reach the semi-finals of the Italian Open to be certain of that result.
Reflecting on the match, Djokovic discussed Wawrinka’s return to the tour saying it was “great to see” the former Australian Open champion back.
In a post-match interview, Djokovic told reporters, “It’s great to see a big champion like Stan back, winning two matches after a long time.
“We all know how important he has been for our sport in the last 10 years, winning three Slams, being an established top-five, top-10 player for many years.”
The five-time Rome Open champion continued stating that Wawrinka needs time in order for him to get back to his best.
“Only he knows how difficult it was with all the surgeries and injuries he had to deal with.
“So of course you can see on the court that he’s slower than he was when he was playing at his best. I’m sure with his team he’s doing his best to get himself in the best shape, but it takes time. It’s also match play versus practice sessions, completely different.
“I felt I played solid with a lot of discipline from the beginning, made him move. On the other hand, I wish that Stan comes back to the desired level, for sure. At the moment I think movement is different. You can see he’s slower.”
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