Marius Copil waved to the crowd in exaltation at defeating Stan Wawrinka in the first round at the Sofia Open 6-4, 6-4. They had met four years ago but it wasn't the same result as Wawrinka had dictated the points and defeated Copil in straight sets at the 2015 Australian Open.
But that was then and this is now after Wawrinka's knee surgeries. It was a few years ago that the pain intensified, hampering Stan Wawrinka's top 10 ranking. He knew the time had to come to get surgery, but the results he also knew may costs him his passion and career.
After a loss in the first round of the 2017 Wimbledon championships to Daniil Medvedev, Wawrinka went off and got the surgery in August, throwing all pessimistic thoughts to the wind. "For sure I worried a lot because I had eight weeks on crutches...I still have a lot of work to do physically and also tenniswise to be to my top level," he'd say after the operation.
Some issues Wawrinka will most like face is getting as many tournaments into his resume as possible to keep his skills and tactics alive. Performing is the biggest issue and he is determined to continue doing that. Another issue may be to get the first few games or possibly grabbing the first set advantage, giving himself a chance to falter within the event without playing 'catch up' and still be ahead in the match.
It was this time last year at the Sofia Open that he was able to make it through the semifinals of this Bulgarian event. This year he bowed at the opening round. He has said last year that "I've enjoyed being back on tour playing matches and this gives me even more motivation to go back on the practice court.
My goal is to find my highest level again..." Wawrinka has proven that he has a higher level and is destined to get there as he dueled it out with Canada's Milos Raonic at the Australian Open last month in four tough tiebreaking sets but bowed in the second round.
Raonic knew that luck was on his side the way Wawrinka played a determined and gritty match making Raonic fight for every point. "I was fortunate to stay alive in the fourth set. Four tie-breaks, three went my way...could easily have been different," Raonic shakes his head in disbelief.
But for the Swiss, history may just well repeat itself when five years ago he'd won the Australian Open defeating and dismantling Rafael Nadal's game in the final. Another issue for Wawrinka will be the court surfaces and he knows that the hard court season may be his most difficult, whereas clay will be a cushion for his vulnerably, tender knee situation.
He knows what's necessary to do. He might have to relinquish some hard court events in the process to be prepared and healthy for other tournaments. Wawrinka is driving his own destiny as to what not to play and what tournaments to go for.
He admits "I need to be patient and give my body the time it needs, but as of now my goal is to come back on clay...I love that part of the season and hope to be ready by then." The fans and tennis community may see Stan Wawrinka enter tournaments and not go deep, but it is only his master plan to keep playing and be viable as a means to an end of one day making events through to the quarters, semifinals and possibly finals as 'Stan the Man' used to do consistently a while ago.