Melbourne: Stan Wawrinka returned to Rod Laver Arena where his life changed completely last year to get his Australian Open title defence off to a winning start on Tuesday.
Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka plays a shot during his men's singles match against Turkey's Marsel Ilhan on day two of the 2015 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. Pic/AFP
The Swiss fourth seed, who upset Rafael Nadal in the 2014 final, ripped through Turkey's Marsel Ilhan 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in 1hr 29min to safely negotiate the first hurdle.
Wawrinka had few problems breaking the 100th-ranked Ilhan's serve five times and will play either Romanian Marius Copil or Spaniard Pablo Andujar in the second round.
The big-serving Swiss has now not lost in the first round in 10 appearances at the Australian Open. "The first Grand Slam of the year is never easy, but I'm happy with the way I played today," Wawrinka said.
"It was great to be back on Rod Laver Arena again, it brings back so many memories from last year. It was such an amazing two weeks so it was great to come back here and I am pleased with my game in general and I'm excited to start again.
"I feel great to come onto the court. I played some good tennis and I have confidence with my game in general. "I feel that I have a lot of support here and it's always nice to come back like that and to feel the crowd behind you."
But Wawrinka said he was not getting too far ahead of himself with a potential quarter-final against Japanese star Kei Nishikori and beyond that a semi-final with world number one Novak Djokovic, who he beat in last year's quarter-finals.
"For sure it's great, but it's still the beginning of the tournament. First round. It's just one match, now I need to be ready for the next one," he said. Wawrinka will face more difficult challenges ahead than were presented by Ilhan as he hit 34 winners and won 82 percent of his first serves.
It was a defining year in 2014 for Wawrinka. He powered up the rankings to end the season as world number four with a 39-17 match record, not only winning his maiden Grand Slam but also helping his home nation claim the Davis Cup along with close friend Roger Federer.
Wawrinka said it had been unbelievable time, but was now in the past. "It was a crazy 2014 for me, winning a Grand Slam, Masters 1000, finishing with the Davis Cup trophy," he said. "That's something amazing as a tennis player, something that you can only dream about. For sure it changed a lot."