Doubts plague the mind after extended stints on the sidelines and Stan Wawrinka accepts they are taking a little longer than expected to overcome. The two left knee surgeries were a success, while fitness and practice were back on track.
But after a narrow 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(3) defeat to American qualifier Donald Young at the Citi Open on Tuesday, the Swiss conceded the belief still waivered. It was confidence that came only with winning matches and there haven’t been too many of those for the 33-year-old of late.
“It’s a tough loss that’s for sure. It’s painful to lose first round here, especially 7-6 in the third,” Wawrinka said. “I was missing a lot, not feeling the way I wanted. I’m looking for confidence. It’s tough to not win a lot of matches so then you start to think too much on the court.”
Wawrinka had shown his most promising signs all season that he was beginning to rediscover his best when he bundled out No. 6 seed Grigor Dimitrov in the opening round at Wimbledon. It was a sure-fire shot of that confidence he so desperately needed. Unfortunately, it was short-lived as he fell to Italian qualifier Thomas Fabbiano in straight sets in the following round.
The switch to hard courts in Washington, D.C., was the next test of where Wawrinka stood in his steady return back towards his best. A wild card into qualifying for the Rogers Cup in Toronto will be next.
“It’s a really long process,” Wawrinka admitted. “It’s a different step during the last year, it’s been a year now.
“I feel I’m really close but at the same time, really far. I know the positive right now is that physically I’m feeling really good. The tennis, I’m practising well. I know and I’m sure I will get to where I want to be, but it’s a tough, long process and you have to accept.”
Patience appears to be working for the Swiss. It is the only way he can hit the reset button after so many early misses this season. With Andy Murray having won just his second match in 12 months in his first-round Citi Open match and Novak Djokovic finally back to his winning ways with a run to the Wimbledon title last month, Wawrinka understands how long it may take.
“The year before Roger (Federer) and Rafa (Nadal) came back directly at their top,” Wawrinka said. “But in sport you can’t compare injuries. We all have different problems, all have different injuries, and we’re all trying to be back at the top.
“Some players do it quickly, others take more time. I was happy to see Andy winning. I think it’s great for the game, good for the fans. You never plan to be out of the tour for so long so now I’m looking for myself, trying to get back to where I want. I know I will, I just don’t know how long it will take.
“You need to accept it’s going to be painful. I’ve been there before and it took me a lot of time, a lot of years to win Grand Slams so I’m OK to take a few more months to try to push me and come back.”