Heading into his third round match at the French Open, 24 months had passed since Stan Wawrinka last reached the second week of a major tournament.
Within that period, the Swiss player had to battle problems on the court with a troublesome knee injury that required surgery. He ended up being out of action for six months between 2017-2018, and required an additional three months rehabilitation during the first half of last year. Suddenly one of the most formidable players outside of the Big Four on the tour found himself battling to gain entry into certain tournaments. Dropping to a low of 263rd in the world rankings last June.
It is for this reason why his latest run at Roland Garros is even sweeter than usual. On Saturday he took out former ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (10-8). A performance that saw him fire 14 aces and 60 winners past his rival.
“I feel fine. It’s been several weeks that tennistically and physically I feel I have progressed.” Wawrinka evaluated about his current fitness.
“I’m playing at a high level. Today I’m happy to have won an additional match and to move forward and be in the round of 16. Playing excellent tennis in Roland. If I look at my first three rounds, they were very solid, very good.”
The 34-year-old is certainly happy, but he is far from contempt. Known as a player who likes to shine on the biggest tennis stadiums around the world, Wawrinka is hungry for more. The former world No.3 has won 16 ATP titles during his career (including three at grand slam level) and has defeated a No.1 player at a major tournament four times.
“I’m happy to be in the round of 16, but it’s not the aim of my tournaments when I enter. I’m not satisfied with this. I want to have more, and I hope to be able to do that tomorrow.”
The determination is there, but how likely is it that Wawrinka can return back to his best on a consistent basis? His age isn’t too much of a factor if you look at others, such as Roger Federer (37) or Ivo Karlovic (40). Furthermore, he is the only player outside of the big four to win multiple grand slam titles over the past 15 years.
“It’s passion, working on the long term, not being too in a hurry, being patient, having a line of conduct, of working, and knowing that work will pay off.” Wawrinka commented about what it takes to become a grand slam winner.
“I feel better. I hope that I will be able to continue the year as I started. But again, for the time being, I have only won three matches here (at the French Open), and I’m not totally satisfied with that type of results. In my vision of the end of my career, I want more, and I hope I’ll be able to continue.”
The next challenge for the player commonly known as ‘Stan the man’ will be one of the rising stars of the game. Stefanos Tsitsipas is yet to play Wawrinka on the tour. The Greek secured his place in the last 16 with a win over Filip Krajinović. Becoming the first player from his country to reach the fourth round of the tournament since 1936.
“He’s an amazing player, Improved a lot. Winning a lot of matches.” Wawrinka said of Tsitsipas. “He has already beaten top players.”
“It’s gonna be a tough match, for sure. I never played him, but practice a few times with him. He’s actually, when you play against him, plays a different ball than when you watch him. When you watch him play, you think he’s playing a little bit slower than what he’s playing in real life.”
Wawrinka’s latest triumph over Dimitrov was his 500th win on the ATP Tour.
Andy Murray To Play Four Tournaments In A Row Following Shanghai Wild Card
It is going to be a busy few week’s for the British player as he continues his comeback to the tour.
The comeback of former world No.1 Andy Murray is gaining momentum after he received a wild card into the most high-profile men’s tournament in China.
The three-time Grand Slam champion has been given entry into the Shanghai Masters, which will get underway on October 5th. Murray is one of only three players to have won the title three or more times. His last triumph was back in 2016 when he defeated Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut in the final. That was also the last time the Brit played in the tournament after being hampered by a serious hip injury over the past two years.
“I’m really looking forward to going back to Shanghai, a tournament I have had success at in the past.” Murray said in a statement.
“Thanks to the tournament for a wild card, it’s great to be able to continue my comeback and play more tennis in China. Shanghai is a great city; I feel comfortable there and the fans are always supportive.”
Murray is continuing his return to the tour after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery earlier this season. The second operation he has had on his hip in as many years. So far in his singles comeback, the 32-year-old has lost his opening matches in Cincinnati (to Richard Gasquet) and Winston-Salem (to Tennys Sandgren). He is currently ranked 415th in the world.
“We are delighted to have Andy return to the tournament where he has been so successful,” Shanghai tournament director Michael Luevano said. “He is incredibly popular with our fans and we are all thrilled to see him back on the courts and heading to Shanghai.’
“He has been through a lot physically in recent times so to see him back doing what he loves is very rewarding for everyone in tennis.”
The addition of Shanghai to his schedule means Murray will play four tournaments in four weeks across two continents. He will also play at events in Zhuhai (ATP 250) and Beijing (ATP 500) prior to the Masters tournament. Then the week after, he will return to Europe to play at the European Open (ATP 250) in Antwerp, Belgium.
Murray is hoping to return back to his top form. So far in his career, he has won 45 titles on the ATP Tour and spent 41 consecutive weeks as world No.1.
Borna Coric Opens Up About Split With Coach
The Croatian No.1 has criticised his ex-mentor for working with Maria Sharapova earlier this year.
Borna Coric has said he had differences of opinion with his former coach ‘for some time’ before they decided to go their separate ways.
The world No.15 has shed light on the reasons behind his decision to part ways with Riccardo Piatti earlier this month. The two have worked together since 2017. Under Piatti’s guidance, Coric won the biggest title of his career in Halle last year. However, he hasn’t won any more silverware since then.
“There have been differences for some time, since the beginning of the year.” Coric said earlier this week.
“They reached the pinnacle at the US Open, after which we all sat around a table and decided to interrupt the collaboration.”
Piatti is a renowned coach in the world of men’s tennis and has worked with many top names. Including Novak Djokovic, Richard Gasquet and Milos Raonic. He also has his own academy in Italy, where he spent some time with Maria Sharapova during the summer and supported her during the US Open. Something that has been criticised by Coric.
“We can say that, it certainly did not help to resolve the differences and made the situation worse.” He commented on Piatti’s work with Sharapova.
“This was one of the main reasons. He is following several projects and could no longer focus fully on me. Given this and the previous divergences, we assessed that the separation was the best option.” Coric added.
The 22-year-old is hoping to end the year on a high after another injury setback. At the US Open he was forced to withdraw from the second round due to a back injury. His win-loss for the season currently stands at 23-15. Coric’s best runs so far in 2019 were at Doha and s-Hertogenbosch where he reached the semi-finals of both tournaments.
Coric is set to return to action next week in St. Petersburg, where he will be the fourth seed.
“Regardless of the situation, I have to try to make the most of this season . I am working hard in anticipation of the return to the field in St. Petersburg.” He concluded.
For the rest of the season Coric will be coached by Antonio Veic. Although there is a chance that more members will be added to his team in the near future.
Gerard Pique Sheds Light On Chances of Roger Federer Returning To Davis Cup
The Swiss maestro is the only member of the Big Three not to feature in the revamped event later this year.
There is a 50/50 chance that Roger Federer could play in next year’s Davis Cup finals, according to Kosmos founder Gerard Pique.
The Barcelona F.C. player has confirmed that talks are ongoing about the former world No.1 featuring in the historic event, which has been revamped this year. For the first time in it’s 119-year history, the finals will take place over a week and feature 18 teams taking part in a round-robin format. The change has split opinion in the sport, but was given the green light at the ITF’s annual AGM meeting last year. Pique’s investment company Kosmos is a key financial backer of the changes.
One notable absence from this year’s finals, which will be held in Madrid, is Federer. The former world No.1 has in the past been a critic of the new format. Once saying the tournament has been designed for ‘the future generation of players,’ but not him. He has also warned against the team competition being turned into the ‘Pique Cup.’ A term the Spaniard is not a fan of.
“I wanted since the first moment I arrived in the tennis world, is to try to help this sport.” Pique said during an interview with Sport Business.
“Switzerland has not qualified for November so even if Roger wants to play in this event, he cannot, but we are talking with him and his agent to discuss the possibility to play in 2020.”
As is currently stands, Federer is the only member of the big three not to be playing. Rafael Nadal has vowed to play if healthy and Novak Djokovic announced his attendance on the eve of the US Open. The Serbian had previously expressed his reservations over participating due to its close proximity to the ATP Cup, another team event that will kick-off in January.
“I just feel like the date of the Davis Cup is really bad, especially for the top players. Between the two, I will prioritize the World Team Cup because that’s a competition of ATP.” The world No.1 said last year.
So why has Djokovic decided to play in Madrid? When asked in Flushing Meadows he said he wanted to represent his country. However, Pique believes there is more to it than that. Saying that he had managed to persuade the Serbian following conversations between the two.
“I said to him, ‘I know you are an ATP player but at the same time you represent the federation of Serbia, which is part of the ITF which invests in young talent and the future of tennis. I think it makes total sense that you participate in both competitions because it is a message that at the end of the day that you want [for the ATP and ITF] to work together.”
One criticism of the event is the timing of the finals. They will take place between November 18-24, the week after the ATP Finals in London. Partly eating into what is already a relatively short off-season for many players on the tour.
ITF President David Haggerty is hoping that negotiations over a potential change in dates can be made in the future with the new leader of the ATP. Current CEO Chris Kermode will be leaving his position later this year after failing to receive enough backing in a ATP board meeting.
“There is leadership change coming and once that’s completed we will continue discussions to see what’s the best date.” Haggerty outlined.
“We need to have the first Davis Cup finals in November and the ATP Cup will be in January and then we will have more facts and have a good discussion.”
The inaugural Davis Cup finals will be held at the Caja Magica. The same venue as the Madrid Open, which takes place annually in May.
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