LOOKING strong early, Swiss Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka had a tougher than expected path to the second round needing all five sets to advance through at Roland Garros overnight. The 2015 French Open championship had won all seven previous matches against Albert Ramos-Vinolas, and at two sets to love looked set to do it again until the Spaniard fought back to make it a four-and-a-half-hour epic contest.
Wawrinka needed all of four hours and 35 minutes to down Ramos-Vinolas, leading 7-6 6-4 at one stage, before dropping the third set in a tiebreaker. Fading in the fourth, it did not look good for the 38-year-old, but he mustered up his renowned fighting spirit to get back on top and win 6-4 in the fifth. After a bruising display, the world number 89 won 7-6 6-4 6-7 1-6 6-4.
“It was probably the toughest one I played against him, that’s for sure,” Wawrinka said post-match. “It was a tough battle today. A long one.
“I had some opportunities in the third set to maybe find a way to finish. I couldn’t. I think he’s always been a tough player to play, especially when he’s in his good rhythm. For me, it was important to stay focused on what I wanted to do.”
Though far from his success on the main court, Wawrinka’s performance out on Court 14 had the crowd up and about with a whopping 76 winners to Ramos-Vinolas’ 45. Though the Swiss star also hit 79 unforced errors to the left-handed Spaniard’s 44, he was able to grind out a tough win. Now he will face Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis, who had an easier journey to the second round with a straight sets win over 20th seed Daniel Evans.
“It’s going to be an interesting match, for sure,” Wawrinka said. “I think it’s the first time we are going to play each other. I know him, I saw him play many, many times. When he’s healthy, like he’s been this year, he’s always a dangerous player.”
AROUND THE COURTS
Unfortunately the news was not as good for another Roland Garros fan favourite in Dominic Thiem, who suffered a five-set loss to Argentinian Pedro Cachin. After an injury-interrupted few years, Thiem was hoping to add to his one Grand Slam title, but after fighting back from two sets to love down, fell 6-3 6-2 6-7 4-6 6-2.
At the top of the order, Carlos Alcaraz, Novak Djokovic and Jannik Sinner were the top eight seeds in action and they breezed through in straight sets over their respective opponents. It was a lot tougher for Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime who owed out in straight sets to Italian Fabio Fognini, while Cameron Norrie and Denis Shapovalov both needed five sets to win over Benoit Paire and Brandon Nakashima. Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and Australian Alex de Minaur were among the other winners, getting up in four sets.
There were no shortages of upsets in the women’s draw with seeds Petra Kvitova (10th), Veronika Kudermetova (11th), Belinda Bencic (12th) and Karolina Pliskova (16th) all knocked out in the first round. Fifth seed Caroline Garcia survived a thriller in front of home fans against Xiyu Wang, while Elina Svitolina‘s recent form upon returning to the WTA Tour continued with a 6-2 6-2 victory over clay court talent and 26th seed, Martina Trevisan.