By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Wednesday, May 31, 2023
On the garden court, French fans showered Stan Wawrinka with loving ovation.
The 38-year-old Swiss poured every piece of himself into a Roland Garros second-round battle with Thanasi Kokkinakis.
In the end, wild card Kokkinakis subdued Wawrinka 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3 in a pulsating victory that sent him into his second Grand Slam third round and first since the 2015 French Open.
At the end of a four hour, 40-minute fight on Court Simonne Mathieu, Wawrinka stood and soaked in the love from French fans.
Moments like this five setter is why the three-time Grand Slam champion continues to play, but they don’t completely dull the disappointment of defeat.
“It’s very touching for me, and that’s why I continue. It’s to live these moments,” Wawrinka said afterward. “But playing on Court 14 or Simonne-Mathieu, people know I’m 38 years old and it’s the end of my career.
“I think they are trying to enjoy to the fullest, and they’re happy to see me. So we enjoy together. The end of the match was incredible in terms of atmosphere. It was like a Davis Cup atmosphere. This gives a lot of emotions, of course. So it helps accepting the loss. It helps moving on and overcoming these losses. But I have to keep that aside for the next steps.”
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) May 31, 2023
Parting was poignant, but Wawrinka insists this is not his final farewell to Paris.
After completing his 18th Roland Garros, the 2015 champion said if his body is healthy he will be back in Paris in 2024 both for Roland Garros and the Olympic Games.
“Since I came back from my injury, I didn’t just come back to play one year and say good-bye,” Wawrinka said. “Otherwise I would have announced it to make a proper farewell.
“But again, in 12 months, many things can happen, so as of today, I’m very positive with respect of what I can still accomplish and do. But I’ll need to continue working, practicing. I really want to go up in the ranking, win more matches.
“But I’m 38 years old, so we will see next year. If everything goes well and I feel I’m still competitive, I will be there.”
Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve