“Only the first day of the tournament. I never come back, that means I’m losing always after.”

Leave it to Stan Wawrinka to poke fun at himself after dropping by the Tennis Channel Desk in Rome to chat with host Prakash Amritraj. In truth, 2023 has been a mixed bag for the three-time major champion.

On Wednesday, Wawrinka kicked off his campaign at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia with a convincing start. Coming from Madrid, where the city’s altitude often forces players to deal with higher-bouncing shots, Wawrinka’s investment in adjusting to the Foro Italico’s contrasting conditions shone through his 6-2, 6-4 victory over Ilya Ivashka. Using the overcast weather to his advantage on the baseline, the Swiss did not drop serve and pounded 26 winners to get through without much resistance.

“I’ve been practicing strong and hard. I’ve been happy since four days here,” he told Amritraj. “Of course we had to wait a little bit this morning, was not looking so great. The conditions at the end were good.

“Not too much wind, no rain for 45 minutes.”

It's been 15 years ago since Wawrinka made his first Masters 1000 final in Rome.

It's been 15 years ago since Wawrinka made his first Masters 1000 final in Rome.


The oldest player in the men’s draw, Wawrinka improved to 12-9 on the season, But as the 38-year-old alluded to, making runs has been a challenge. So far this year, Wawrinka has won back-to-back matches on three occasions.

When Amritraj complimented Wawrinka's “inspiring” tennis of late, the current world No. 84 again interjected to dilute the praise.

“For first round yes, second not so much. Step by step,” said Wawrinka, who won his openers in Monte Carlo and Madrid but lost in the second round at both Masters 1000 stops.

Last year, it was in Rome where Wawrinka initially showed encouraging signs that he still had quality tennis left in the tank after returning from two left foot surgeries. At the 1000-level event, he defeated Reilly Opelka and Laslo Djere over consecutive three-setters before being outclassed by eventual champion Novak Djokovic in the third round.

Wawrinka can match that result with a win over No. 26 seed Grigor Dimitrov in a duel of one-handed backhands on Friday. Their last meeting came just before the COVID-19 pandemic at 2020 Acapulco, a contest Dimitrov won to snap a five-match losing streak in the pair’s head-to-head series. Wawrinka leads it 7-5 overall, with the two splitting four encounters on red dirt.

“He’s a really talented player. We had some big battles in the past,” said Wawrinka. “It’s going to be a good challenge to play him.”