By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) – Stan Wawrinka reached the third round at the French Open on Wednesday and said it was his love of tennis that helped him claw his way back from a painful knee injury.
The 2015 Roland Garros champion fell out of the top 200 in the world after undergoing surgery in late 2017, but he has been climbing up the rankings since last year.
His return to form continued in Paris as he dismantled Chile’s Cristian Garin 6-1 6-4 6-0 to set up a clash with Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov.
Regardless of the result of that match, Wawrinka is already happy that he can play tennis at full gas again after he came back too early in 2018.
“I had a lot of pain full time. After the surgery it took me a little while to get back fit and ready to play like today,” he said.
“It took more than a year, and it was not an easy way to be back. But again, at the end of the day, I knew why I was
doing it, because I love tennis, I love the game, but
especially I love to play.
“In a court like today with a lot of people in a Grand Slam, that was always my dream to play in the French Open when I was a kid.”
It is those childhood dreams that have kept Wawrinka on track through some difficult times.
He reached the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open earlier this month, only losing to 11-times French Open champion Rafa Nadal, but that promising result was followed by early exits in Rome and Geneva.
“When you are in pain, not sure how well you’re gonna be back or which level you can be back, you focus on that, focus on what you wanted when you were a child,” he said.
The Paris crowd did not just appreciate Wawrinka’s tennis and warmly applauded after his match against Garin when he helped out a child who was getting crushed by autograph-seeking fans in the stands.
“People were pushing too much, and he started to cry because he had some pain,” world number 28 Wawrinka told reporters.
“I took him out of that mess a little bit, and he was in pain and sad. So for sure, I tried to make him feel better, gave him a towel, and tried to find his dad.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)