The infamous red clay of the Roland Garros claimed two Australian Open champions on Monday and Tuesday. The unprecedented first round losses in men’s and women’s singles champions from the immediately preceding major became historical first-time incident for the Grand Slam tournament. After three days of play, most of the other top seeded players in men’s and women’s categories made their ways to the next rounds, while a couple of other seeds had to bite the red dust.
It all began with the match between the Spanish world no. 41 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Australian open champion Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, played on Monday. It was one of the biggest second day upset as Garcia-Lopez won the match 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 6-0 in 2 hours 23 minutes. Wawrinka was error-prone from the start of the match and though he showed signs of recovery in the second set to win at 7-5, his game overall was full of avoidable unforced errors. In all Wawrinka made 62 unforced errors and ended with 37 winners. In sharp contrast Garcia-Lopez’s game was much cleaner as the number of unforced errors from his side was just 28. But he sent down only 23 winners in Wawrinka’s court. The Swiss came to Roland Garros under the burden of high expectations. He had a great start to 2014 with the victory over world no.1 Rafael Nadal at Melbourne in the year’s first Grand Slam in January. Later, on April 20, 2014, Wawrinka scored his first ATP Masters 1000 victory at the Monte-Carlo Open by defeating his more famous compatriot Roger Federer 4-6, 7-6, 6-2. But other than these two signature wins, Wawrinka has not had any notable performance. After winning the year’s first Grand Slam, he failed to cross the fourth rounds at Indian Wells and Miami Masters. Worse, he suffered a first-round loss at Madrid Mutua Open to Dominic Thiem and lost again in the Italian Open third round to Tommy Haas. After Andy Murray in 2007, Wawrinka became the highest seed to lose in the French Open first round and he joined Czech Republic’s Petr Korda, who lost in the first round at Roland Garros after winning the Australian Open in 1998.
On Tuesday, 2014 Australian Open champion Li Na succumbed in her first round match 5-7, 6-3, 1-6 against Kristina Mladenovic of France. In 2011, Li Na became the first Chinese player to win the French Open, when she defeated Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-4, 7-6. The disappointed Chinese admitted that she played below her usual game against a player, whom she had beaten in the first round in 2010 at Roland Garros. So it was some kind of a sweet revenge for Mladenovic but she didn’t say that in her post-match interview. Instead she said that it meant a lot to be winning against a player of Li Na’s stature. After 14 years, Li Na wrote her name alongside Lindsay Davenport, who had won the Australian Open championship in 2010 and followed that victory with the first round loss at Roland Garros.
On Monday, 9th seeded Japanese Kei Nishikori was eliminated in his first round match against Martin Klizan of Slovakia. More than an upset, Nishikori’s loss was attributable to his less than 100% physical condition. He has been plagued with a hip injury since the Madrid Mutua Open, where he had to retire in the final against Rafael Nadal, a fortnight ago. Nishikori’s match began with losing the first set tie-break but Klizan got the better of the Japanese in the next two sets with Nishikori’s movements becoming sluggish. The Slovak finally won 7-6, 6-1, 6-2 to enter the second round.
Another seed to fall early at Roland Garros was Grigor Dimitrov. The 11th seed from Bulgaria lost in the first round to the Croat Ivo Karlovic in straight sets 4-6, 5-7, 6-7. This year, Dimitrov had reached the quarterfinal stage in Australian Open but his best Roland Garros performance has been reaching the third round last year. Two seeded men’s singles players; Germany’s 16th seed Tommy Haas and Spaniard 21 seed Nicolas Almagro retired from their matches. A former top-ranked player Lleyton Hewitt also lost in the first round. Denmark’s 13th seeded player Caroline Wozniacki lost to 64th-ranked Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium 6-7, 6-4, 2-6. The story of her first round defeat was accompanied in the media with her broken engagement news with Rory Mcllroy, the two time major golf champion.
Barring these upsets on the first three day, all other men’s and women’s seeded players entered the second round at the end of day 3 at Roland Garros, where the biggest news was Monday’s marathon match between Argentinian qualifier Facundo Bagnis and French veteran Julien Benneteau. It was one hell of a match that lasted for 4 hours 26 minutes, in which the Grand Slam debutant Bagnis defeated Frenchman Benneteau 6-1, 6-2, 1-6, 3-6, 18-16. Bagnis was down a match-point at one stage but displayed remarkable tenacity in pulling off a major victory. They played more games in the fifth and final set than the total of all games in their first four sets.
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