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By Chris Oddo | Saturday January 13, 2018

Stan Wawrinka’s biggest victory of the 2018 Australian Open may have already come. Just by entering the main draw the three-time major champion has exceeded his own expectation and trepidation about what the season holds for him.

More: Bautista Agut Downs Del Potro for Auckland Crown

The actual matches, when main draw begins in Melbourne on Monday? Gravy.

I know I'm not at the level I want to be yet because it's a long process to get there,” Wawrinka told reporters on Saturday in Melbourne. “But I'm happy with the way the knee is handling.”

Wawrinka expressed his joy at simply being healthy after a very complicated knee surgery that left him on crutches for two months last season. It’s hard to imagine him making a run so early in his comeback, but that’s not really the point of the exercise for the Swiss. He’s looking to build strength and face the ultimate test, whether he’s successful or not from a win-loss standpoint.

“I think the fact that I'm here and I'm going to play the first one, it's a big victory,” he said. “It's the best that I could have dream when I had the surgery, is to be here sitting in front of you and to say, Okay, I'm going to play the first match. That's something really good from my side, especially from the knee. The knee is getting way better. I still have a lot of work to do physically and also tennis-wise to be to my top level.

Wawrinka will face Lithuania Ricardas Berankis in round one, but it’s the players that he has faced all week in the lead-up that has enabled Wawrinka to grow his confidence in his fitness and his ability to compete on the surgically repaired knee.

“I practiced with Rafa, I practiced with Novak, with Berdych, with Monfils, with Dimitrov... I didn't win many sets, but that's not the most important. I did way more hours in one week that I've done the last few months, and against a way better level of intensity. That's my goal, was to come here, to practice three, four hours a day, to see how the knee can keep it.”


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