By Martyn Herman
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Stan Wawrinka feels great to be back after his first-round victory at the Australian Open on Tuesday but is still experiencing pain in the left knee that required surgery last season.
The Swiss former champion, seeded ninth, beat Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis 6-3 6-4 2-6 7-6(2) in his first competitive match for six months to set up a second-round clash with American Tennys Sandgren.
“Great to be back. It’s great to win, for sure. Was a tough one in all aspects of the game,” Wawrinka, who won the first of his three grand slams in Melbourne in 2014, said.
“I’m really happy to get through a match like that, to fight the way I did today, to win the match like this.
“For sure. I still have some pain. It depends the way I’m moving, how I push on it. But in general, it’s going in the right direction. That’s the best news.”
Wawrinka was not firing on cylinders but still far superior in the opening two sets before a lapse allowed 136th-ranked Berankis back into the match.
Berankis broke early in the fourth set for a 3-0 lead and Wawrinka looked rattled, but the Swiss replied in the fifth game when he drilled a backhand at his opponent at the net.
Wawrinka took an early lead in the tiebreak thanks to a Berankis double-fault and an ace took him to 6-1.
Berankis saved one match point with an ace of his own but a netted volley ended the contest.
Wawrinka was cautious about his prospects of a long run.
“The first thing was to come here, see if I was able to play,” the 32-year-old said. “I won the first match. I’m going to focus on the tournament. I have a lot of work to do still.
“I need to be really patient because I have a lot of fitness and practice to do if I want to get back to my level.”
“But I think there’s a lot of positives right now.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman)