Sad Stan: Wawrinka opens up on coach Magnus Norman’s exit and confirms Australian Open fitness
The former champion says he will play at opening grand slam of the season after knee issues, but reveals frustrations over end of coaching partnership
Stan Wawrinka has admitted he was upset long-time coach Magnus Norman decided to end their relationship as he battled back from knee surgery.
Norman called it quits on his four-year spell with the Swiss star in October after a partnership that brought three grand slam titles.
The Swede wanted to spend more time with his family, but it did not go down well with Wawrinka, who confirmed on Saturday he will play the Australian Open next week.
“No, for sure, it was already a tough, tough, tough moment for myself, to be out, to get surgery, to know that it will take at least six months to be back at a place where I can play tennis again,” said Wawrinka, who has not played competitively since Wimbledon in July.
“It was tough to hear from him that he will stop at that moment.
“When you are in a tough place like that as an athlete, you want the people who know you the best to stay around you, to stick with you. You want your team, your family to be here.
“They will help you the most
to get back where you want to be.”
He said Norman was not only his coach, “but he was a friend, even closer than a friend” and he was “more sad than angry at him”.
Wawrinka is still without a full-time coach, although he continues to work with Yannick Fattebert who plans to spend more time on the road with the 32-year-old.
Despite no longer being coached by Norman, Wawrinka said he would always be grateful for the time they spent together.
“That’s what I want to keep from our relationship,” said Wawrinka, who was the world number 17 and had never reached a grand slam semi-final before the pair hooked up.
Wawrinka pulled out of an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi late last month, casting doubt on whether he would be ready for the opening grand slam of the season.
He admitted it had been a race against time, but said he was confident enough to take the court next week against first-round opponent Ricardas Berankis.
“For me, I think the fact that I’m here and I’m going to play the first one, it’s a big victory,” he said after a week of intense practice in Melbourne against Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and others.
“It’s the best that I could have dreamed when I had the surgery – to be here sitting in front of you and to say, ‘OK, I’m going to play the first match’.
“That’s something really good from my side, especially from the knee.”
The 2014 Melbourne champion, who has dropped down the rankings to be seeded nine at the season-opening grand slam of the season, said the injury “is getting way better”, but there was still pain.
“It depends on the way I’m moving, what I’m doing. But it’s normal,” he said, adding that he was in regular touch with his doctor in Switzerland.
“I still have a lot of work to do physically and also tennis-wise to be at my top level. I’m going to take the time I need for that.
“I know I need to start somewhere. I think here was a good start, to get pushed, to see also mentally how I’m going to react, how I’m going to feel when I’m going to be playing matches.”
After surgery in August, Wawrinka, 32, said he spent eight weeks on crutches, with the injury also taking a mental toll.
A final decision to compete was only made Saturday in welcome news for tournament organisers, with five-times runner-up Andy Murray and Japan’s Kei Nishikori already ruled out with injuries.