MELBOURNE, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Former champion Stan Wawrinka gave Australian Open organisers a massive boost on Tuesday when he told reporters he was feeling “really positive” about the new season and was keen to get back on court.
The year’s opening grand slam has been hit hard by absences with Andy Murray, Serena Williams and Kei Nishikori among those to have withdrawn, while Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic have also been struggling with long-term injuries.
Wawrinka has been battling a knee injury and has not played since he was knocked out in the first round of Wimbledon last year, and the Swiss was one of the major question marks heading into the Jan. 15-28 Australian Open.
“I’m really, really happy to be back on the Tour and seeing the sun,” Wawrinka told reporters after an event with the tournament’s ball kids at Melbourne Park on Tuesday.
“Still a lot to do but I’m feeling really positive so looking forward to starting.”
Wawrinka is scheduled to play in the exhibition Tiebreak Tens event at Melbourne Park on Wednesday and tournament director Craig Tiley said it was welcome news the three-times grand slam winner was eager to get back on court.
“There’s been a lot of questions and in fact this is the first time publicly in six months that he’s said anything, so we are excited that he agreed to come here and do it with the ball kids,” Tiley said.
“So he’s ready to play. I’ve watched him practice.
“Obviously to play best-of-five-set matches and to play seven of them in two weeks, he’d need to have a lot of things go his way.
“But, as he indicated this morning, he will be ready to play and it’s great to see him out here.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford