WATCH: Stan Wawrinka takes big step with first win of ATP comeback
Stan Wawrinka has defeated 2021 Italian Open semi-finalist Reilly Opelka from a set down to land his first ATP tour level victory since returning from injury.
The 37-year-old battled from losing the first set 6-3 to go on to claim the win 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 for his first win at any level since beginning his injury comeback in March.
Currently ranked 361st in the world, Wawrinka made use of one of his protected ranking entries to compete in the Italian Open main draw before ousting 17th ranked Opelka.
The 40 ranking points that Wawrinka gains by reaching the second round see him rise 61 spots in the live ATP ranking, just back into the top 300 at 300th.
Should he defeat Serbia’s Laslo Djere next up to advance to the third round he would move nearly 50 spots higher to just outside the ATP top 250.
As the tour approaches the second Slam of the year, Wawrinka will be hoping to receive a wildcard to Roland Garros, making clear last month that he will ask tournament organisers for such an invitation.
Otherwise, in order to compete in the event he won back in 2015, the Swiss would need to utilise another of his valuable protected ranking entries.
He said in April: “That’s what I do for every tournament (ask for a wildcard), because I only have nine protected rankings I can use and I want to keep them.”
Beyond the Djere matchup, chance could bring about an on court reunion of Wawrinka and world number one Novak Djokovic in the third round.
That is, of course, should Wawrinka win and if Djokovic defeats Aslan Karatsev in his first match in Rome.
The pair have not faced off for nearly three years now, not since a fourth round meeting at the 2019 US Open when Djokovic retired midway through the third set after losing the opening two to Wawrinka.
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