NEW YORK: Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka is finally feeling great again two years after knee surgery, and that’s about to become a major headache for his US Open rivals.
The 34-year-old Swiss advanced to the US Open quarter-finals on Sunday when world number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic retired with a left shoulder injury trailing Wawrinka 6-4, 7-5, 2-1.
“I was feeling good on the court,” Wawrinka said. “I was playing well. The more the match was going, better I was playing, I was hitting really hard the ball. I was feeling great on the court.
“I’m super happy with the level. For sure it’s very special to play the number one player in the world. Sorry he had to retire to finish the game like that.
“But for me, most important is the way I’m playing, the way I’m moving. Tonight I think was really high level.”
It’s the same level Wawrinka showed in beating Djokovic in the 2016 US Open final and 2015 French Open final. He also won the 2014 Australian Open over Rafael Nadal for his first Grand Slam crown.
Wawrinka underwent 2017 knee surgery and has spent two years recovering that form.
“I have been practicing now since many months,” Wawrinka said. “I know how I feel in Grand Slam. I know how I get to my best level. Sometimes I struggle a little bit in the first few rounds, but if I get the win, if I can pass those matches, I know my confidence gets better.
“I’m happy with the way I’m playing so far and hopefully I can keep going.”
Wawrinka reached a Tuesday matchup against Russian fifth seed Daniil Medvedev, who made an obscene gesture in his third-round match to get the crowd booing him and reveled in the jeers again in his fourth-round win.
“I saw a lot of drama happening this year at the US Open, but it’s a lot of fun also to watch for everybody,” Wawrinka said.
“I understand how you can get (energy) from any atmosphere. That’s why you play. I understand the enjoyment of that, not only in positive but also in negative. You always look for something, and that’s going to be interesting.”
– ‘A great atmosphere’ –
Medvedev won his only match against Wawrinka in the 2017 first round at Wimbledon, just before Wawrinka’s surgery.
Last month, Medvedev won at Cincinnati and was runner-up at Montreal and Washington in the biggest US Open tune-up events.
“He has been playing amazing tennis, making final after final, winning Cincinnati,” Wawrinka said. “It’s going to be interesting match to play against him. I’m looking forward for it. It’s going to be, for sure, a great level. I’m excited to play.”
Wawrinka’s potential semi-final foe is compatriot Roger Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam winner who owns a 23-3 career record over Wawrinka with seven wins in a row since Wawrinka’s last win in the 2015 French Open quarter-finals.
But for now, Wawrinka is enjoying the US Open spotlight.
“All I can think is about the atmosphere, about to be back in the night session,” Wawrinka said. “Here it’s always something special, always a great atmosphere, and I was really happy to be back.”