Former world No. 3 Stan Wawrinka said it’s always special to play Novak Djokovic but also admitted that he is not ready to face a player like the world No. 1.
On Wednesday, Wawrinka defeated Laslo Djere 7-6 (8) 3-6 6-4 in the Rome second round.
Next up for Wawrinka is a 26th career meeting versus Djokovic.
Djokovic owns a 19-6 head-to-head versus Wawrinka as the two are set to meet for the first time since the 2019 US Open.
“It’s not the best prize, but it’s always special to play against him,” Wawrinka said, per the ATP Tour website. “I’m not where I want to be yet with my game, with my fitness level, with my mental [game]. I need those matches, so to have a chance to play against the best player, it’s going to be really difficult for me, that’s for sure.
“I’m not ready to compete I think at that level, but it’s what I need. I need those challenges. I need to push myself as much as I can to keep improving.”
Wawrinka on beating Djere
Wawrinka won a thrilling first set as he saved two set points in the tie-break, before realizing his second set point to win a tight opener.
Djere bounced back in the second set, breaking Wawrinka in the eighth game and then serving out for the set in the following game.
After losing the second set, Wawrinka started slow the third set as Djere led 3-1 after the opening four games.
However, Wawrinka refused to quit as he broke Djere in the sixth and 10th games to overturn the deficit and seal a three-set win.
“Tonight was a big fight. [There was] big support from the fans, it’s always something special,” Wawrinka said. “At my age, after all I’ve done in my career, that’s one of the main reasons why I’m still playing. It’s to get the chance to play in front of the fans.”