MELBOURNE (AFP) – Former winner Stan Wawrinka Tuesday said he’s hungry to return to action at next week’s Australian Open after six months on the sidelines.
The three-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t played since Wimbledon, but said he has recovered sufficiently from a knee injury to feature in the year’s opening Grand Slam, starting in Melbourne on Monday.
‘‘I’m really, really happy to be back on the tour and seeing the sun,’’ the 32-year-old Swiss told reporters in Melbourne.
‘‘Still a lot to do but I’m feeling really positive, so looking forward to starting.’’
Wawrinka, who defeated Rafael Nadal to win the 2014 Australian title, has slipped to nine in the world rankings, having not played since his first-round Wimbledon loss to Russian Daniil Medvedev in July.
He pulled out of an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi late last month before travelling to Australia to prepare for the Open.
‘‘For me, the first thing is to play a match, to play a tennis match again. It’s been many months out of the tour,’’ Wawrinka said. ‘‘It’s not always the best when you are an athlete so I’m looking forward to it, enjoying the crowd.
‘‘It’s always an amazing atmosphere here. The people love the sport, love the tennis so I always enjoy to share that with them.’’
With five-times runner-up Andy Murray and Japan’s Kei Nishikori already ruled out with injuries, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley welcomed Wawrinka’s intention to play.
‘‘There’s been a lot of questions (around Wawrinka) and in fact this is the first time publicly in six months that he’s said anything, so we are excited that he agreed to come here and is ready to play,’’ Tiley said.
Wawrinka is in Melbourne without his long-time coach Magnus Norman after their split late last year.
Norman ended his four-year spell with Wawrinka after deciding to take a break from full-time coaching.