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Wawrinka loses on return after year out injured

MONTE CARLO (AFP) – Stan Wawrinka lost to Alexander Bublik in the opening round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Monday as the three-time Grand Slam champion played his first ATP Tour match in 13 months.

Wawrinka, who won the Monte Carlo title in 2014, was beaten 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 by Bublik on his return from a left foot injury that forced him to undergo two surgeries last year.

“I’m still far away from where I want to be, but I think I’m (going in) the right direction,” said Wawrinka.

The 37-year-old was unable to maintain the momentum against Bublik, 24, who claimed his first win at the event in two hours and five minutes.

“I think today was a positive match. It was a tough loss, of course, but I’m happy with the way I was playing,” continued wild card entry Wawrinka.

“The body’s getting much better.

Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka returns the ball to Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik. PHOTO: AFP

“I was playing better, feeling better on the court of course physically. I spent a lot of mental energy to focus, to stay there as it was tough at the end. But I’m happy with what I have done today.”

The former world number three has dropped to 236 in the rankings having last played on the main tour in Qatar in March 2021.

The Swiss took his first tentative steps back on court at a second-tier Challenger event in Marbella last month but was defeated in the first round.

Bublik, ranked 36th, will meet Pablo Carreno Busta in the second round, the Spaniard getting past Argentine qualifier Sebastian Baez 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

Argentine Federico Delbonis beat Jaume Munar 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to set up a clash with second seed Alexander Zverev of Germany.

Italy’s Fabio Fognini, ranked 32, took 2hr 29min to get past France’s Arthur Rinderknech 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, and next meets Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Fellow Italian Jannik Sinner beating Croat Borna Coric 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.

Argentine Diego Schwartzman battled past Russian Karen Khachanov 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-3 with the 12th seed next facing Hungarian Marton Fucsovics in the second round.

Yesterday, world number one Novak Djokovic returned to action against 46th ranked Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

The Serb’s only appearance in 2022 was in Dubai in February where he played just three matches due to his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

This year’s tournament is being played in front of full crowds for the first time since 2019 after the 2020 event was cancelled and the 2021 edition staged behind closed doors.