MELBOURNE, Australia -- Stan Wawrinka said Saturday he feared he might never return from a knee injury that has sidelined him since he lost in the first round of Wimbledon in June.
Speaking at media day at Melbourne Park ahead of the start of the Australian Open, Wawrinka said it was a victory just to make the trip to Australia, considering the extent of the setback, which forced him into surgery just over a month after his Wimbledon exit.
"For sure I worr[ied] a lot because I had eight weeks on crutches," Wawrinka said. "I started my first fitness by just walking. The thing is, it's always complicated when you're like, at that level before, you get [an] injury, you can get through [the] pain mentally also, feeling lonely, not feeling good."
Wawrinka, who won his first of three Grand Slam titles four years ago in Melbourne, also said that the idea of never playing tennis again brought him a great deal of anguish, but that he is dealing with it the best he can.
While he still feels pain in his knee, Wawrinka called it "normal," but also conceded that physically he's not at his top level.
"I've been in contact a lot with my doctor since the surgery," Wawrinka said. "I know he always told me that it was a big surgery, that it was a complicate[d] one, and it was important to take the time, not to rush, really follow all the process to get there. He knows exactly the pain I feel, the pain I don't feel. At least once a week we talk."
Wawrinka, 32, made a terrific run into the Australian Open semifinals a year ago before falling to Swiss countryman Roger Federer in five sets. His goal at this event isn't a repeat performance, but just to know he can walk away without the trepidation that his knee has worsened.
"The best that I could have dream[ed] when I had the surgery is to be here sitting in front of you and to say, 'OK, I'm going to play the first match,'" Wawrinka said. "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 tenniswise to be to my top level."