MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Stanislas Wawrinka was a day away from playing his first match at the Australian Open and all everyone wanted to talk about was his last match at Melbourne Park in 2013.
Mind you, his five-set, fourth-round loss to eventual champion Novak Djokovic lasted 5 hours and 2 minutes, including 12-10 in the fifth, and turned out to be the longest Grand Slam match of 2013.
"It was a great match, even if I lost it," Wawrinka said Sunday. "At the beginning of the year, that's why I play so good the rest of the year. Took a lot of confidence with that match."
Not enough confidence, however, to think he has a Grand Slam singles title in him.
"So far ... I'm so far away," Wawrinka said, laughing. "Only one semifinal in the U.S. Open last year in the last 10 years of my career. I'm improving. I'm really happy. I finished last year in the top eight. I feel I'm close from the top guys to beat them maybe once or to stay close from them.
"But I'm not thinking I'm not winning a Grand Slam."
Wawrinka, who was told Sunday that he had been honored with the "personality of the year" award in his native Switzerland, has been working with former player Magnus Norman of Sweden as coach for nearly a year, although the two don't travel together all the time.
Norman was briefly ranked No. 2 in 2000 when he made the semifinals of the Australian Open and the final at the French Open, losing to Gustavo Kuerten at Roland Garros.
"He's a quiet person, a little bit like me. That's why we are great together," Wawrinka said.
Wawrinka, who won the Chennai Open in India to start 2014, is on the bottom half of the draw that contains Djokovic and No. 3 David Ferrer as its major threats. Wawrinka, who plays Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan in the first match at Hisense Arena on Monday, could play Djokovic this year in the semifinals.
GO SOEDA, SAYS KEI: Kei Nishikori comes into the Australian Open having won the Kooyong exhibition tournament and confident of his first-round chances against Australia's Marinko Matosevic. Surprisingly, No. 16-seeded Nishikori also figures his Davis Cup teammate, Go Soeda, could give Wimbledon champion Andy Murray a tough first-round test at Melbourne Park.
Nishikori, who beat Tomas Berdych in the Kooyong final on Saturday, said Murray's recent three-month layoff from minor back surgery could place the Scottish player at risk of a surprising loss in the early rounds.
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