Stan Wawrinka broke down in tears on the court after suffering a narrow defeat in the Croatia Open final to Alexei Popyrin on Sunday as the veteran tennis star dropped a hint over his future. The Swiss star was taken to a deciding set by Popyrin but fell short as the Australian clinched the ATP 250 title in Umag, and the intensity of the battle appeared to overwhelm Wawrinka as he spoke out on court.
Popyrin defeated the 16-time champion 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4 to claim his second ATP Tour title after battling through the pain barrier in a valiant third-set display. The 23-year-old was hampered by cramp in his right leg in the fourth game on the final set and his movement was limited as a result.
But he eventually saw off his experienced opponent Wawrinka in two hours and 36 minutes on court. The three-time Grand Slam winner looked emotional as he fought back tears when addressing the crowd, as he paid tribute to the spectators for their support.
“I know it’s so stupid to cry, but I love this sport so much,” Wawrinka said in his post-match interview on court. “You make it really special. Amazing week.
“Hopefully I can come back. Thank you for the support. Thank you for being here. Hopefully I see you next year.”
It is not the first time that Wawrinka has hinted that this year could be his last in the sport. Injuries have taken their toll on his fitness and form, with Wawrinka currently 72nd in the world, and his season started on a disappointing note when he suffered a first-round exit at the hands of Alex Molcan at the Australian Open.
Wawrinka was then knocked out of the French Open in the second round by Thanasi Kokkinakis and he was soundly beaten by Novak Djokovic in straights sets in round three at Wimbledon.
At the peak of his powers, he was ranked third in the ATP world rankings in 2014 after winning the Australian Open that year. The following year, he would go on to win the French Open and he clinched his last Major at the US Open in 2016.
Back in March, Wawrinka lifted the lid on his plans to retire and said he had no intention of stopping while he was still enjoying the occasion. But his tearful goodbye in Croatia suggests he may have had a change of heart.
“Of course it’s always special. That’s one of the main reasons why I keep playing tennis,” Wawrinka told the ATP.
“I enjoy what I’m doing. I’m passionate about it. The emotion that I get from the fans, from the people in each tournament, from the support that I can get in matches, is always going to be special.
“I want to enjoy that as much as I can because the day that I will stop there will be no return.”