Grand Slam Winners Thiem & Wawrinka In Joint Injury Return On The Costa Del Sol

The two former Grand Slam winners take part in the Andalucia Open in Marbella next week
13:32, 27 Mar 2022

For two former Grand Slam winners, who both climbed as high as No3 in the world, the Andalucia Open in Marbella will carry far more significance than would usually be the case for a relatively low-key Challenger tournament on the Costa Del Sol. 

Austria’s Dominic Thiem, at 28, should be in his absolute prime and building on a superb three years from 2018 to 2020 that saw him win the US Open, and reach finals at the French Open, twice, and also the Australian Open in Melbourne. 

But in 2021 things started to go seriously wrong for Thiem, a player with a huge power game, devastating ground strokes with both the forehand and a single-handed backhand, and a serve of up to 145mph at times.  

Poor form and a knee injury saw him take a short break to “recharge” – but there was worse to come for Thiem. He came back in Madrid, but after early exits at both Lyon and the French and pulling out of the Olympics he suffered the wrist injury in Mallorca that required surgery and has kept him out until now – an especially troubling problem for someone that relies on hitting the ball with such ferocity. 

That was it for Thiem’s year and season, missing Wimbledon and the US Open, and after a couple of aborted attempts to return, he withdrew from this year’s Australian as well as Indian Wells and Miami. But the target became the European clay-court season, and it starts for the Austrian in Spain after being handed an invitational wildcard by the organisers. 

In an emotional message that revealed some of the agonies of injury and struggles with his form over the past 18 months, Thiem - down to world No50 - said on his Instagram account: “I will be playing next week a tournament in Marbella, Spain. I want to start getting contact with the competition after all these months and I believe this is the right way to start. 

“It's been a very, very tough period for me and to go back to competition is what I need. To step on a tennis court and compete is what I have been waiting for so long and I had a lot of setbacks. I know this will be a slow process of getting back to the top level, but I am ready to work hard and start humble. I want to thank the tournament director for his invitation.” 

The locals plus any ex-pats and holiday-makers stand to get good value from tickets starting as low as £18, because in addition to Thiem, three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka has also been granted a wildcard and takes his place in the draw. 

Stan Wawrinka
Stan Wawrinka

Wawrinka, now 36, may have thought his time on court was over after more than a year out with an injury to his left foot that also required surgery. Another player from an Alpine country, his mountain back to competitive action has if anything been even harder to climb. 

Another player with a majestic single-handed backhand, Wawrinka managed to escape the considerable shadow cast by Swiss compatriot Roger Federer long enough to create plenty of his own history 

He has won 16 singles titles including major successes at the US Open, French Open and Australian Open – not to mention Olympic gold in the doubles with Federer in the 2008 Beijing Games, and playing a key role in Switzerland’s 2014 Davis Cup success. And though Wawrinka has slipped down to No232 in the rankings due to his inactivity he clearly still feels there is something left to achieve that will be worth all the hard recovery work. 

Federer is now 40, and has not been seen on a tennis court since Wimbledon last year – with no guarantees that will ever happen again after a truly magnificent and illustrious career. But Wawrinka, speaking recently to French sports newspaper L’Equipe, revealed what has driven him back to the court. 

He said: “The most important thing is not knowing what level you can reach, but what flame you have inside you to do whatever it takes to push the limits again.” 

Wawrinka has not been sitting around on his hands during his time away from the game, and was a co-producer in the French film comedy ‘Maison de Retraite’ starring Kev Adams and Gerard Depardieu, currently doing good numbers at the box office in francophone countries. 

But he, along with Thiem, will be back in front of the cameras in Marbella.

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