Novak Djokovic said it is “great to see” Stan Wawrinka competing on the ATP Tour again after beating him in the last 16 of the Italian Open.
Wawrinka, 37, was playing only his second ATP Tour event after a year out due to two foot surgeries.
He showed some flashes of his best in wins over world No. 17 Reilly Opelka and Laslo Djere but was swept aside by world No. 1 Djokovic, who broke serve five times as he improved his head-to-head record against the Swiss to 20-6.
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“It’s great to see a big champion like Stan back, winning two matches after a long time,” said Djokovic.
“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.”
Wawrinka has fallen to No. 361 in the world rankings due to his year-long absence and was bidding to become the lowest-ranked player to beat a world No. 1 at a tour-level event since 1990.
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Djokovic says Wawrinka, who beat him in the 2016 US Open final and 2015 French Open final, needs more time to find his best level.
“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.”
Wawrinka will next head to the Geneva Open in his home country of Switzerland before playing the French Open, which he won in 2015.
Stan Wawrinka à Rome en 2022
Image credit: Getty Images
“I need those matches,” said Wawrinka. “I need the competition. You cannot practice that feeling of nerves, stress, the way you feel during the match, the way the body reacts.”
Djokovic will face Felix Auger-Aliassime in the quarter-finals knowing a win will ensure he is the top seed for the French Open.
If Djokovic loses then Daniil Medvedev will overtake him as world No. 1 before he makes his return in Geneva next week.
"I managed to do well from the beginning,” added Djokovic.
“I moved him around the court and hold my serve pretty comfortably except for the loss of serve in the second set. Pretty much a very good performance.”
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