The Swiss third seed threw away a 3-1 lead in the first set and
even though he pulled level by winning the second set he capitulated
to a 6-4 5-7 6-2 6-0 defeat against a man who has never gone past
the third round at Roland Garros.
Dealing with expectation has never been a problem for Novak Djokovic
and Rafa Nadal and they both raced into the second round on a damp
day in the French capital.
Second seed Novak Djokovic played the funny man as he slithered to a
6-1 6-2 6-4 win over Portugal's Joao Sousa while defending champion
Nadal slipped into his customary role of cold-blooded assassin
against Robbie Ginepri.
Djokovic had criticized the surface on the Philippe Chatrier show
court for being too damp after several days of rain and Wawrinka got
bogged down in the heavy conditions against an inspired opponent.
He is the first Australian Open champion to lose in the first round
of the following French Open since Czech Petr Korda in 1998, and
Wawrinka admitted the defeat had shown him how far he was from
joining Nadal and Djokovic at the top of the game.
"The match wasn't good at all," said Wawrinka, who was close to
tears in the post-match interview. "I was trying to find something
and I didn't - I don't have an answer why I didn't play that good.
It's a tough loss, for sure."
Wawrinka admitted a first grand slam title had changed his life and
expectations more than he could have imagined.
"It's a different story now and a different picture for my career. I
need to put the puzzle back together and I didn't find all the
pieces yet. Everything was terrible today, I was completely flat."
Nadal, bidding for a record-extending ninth title at Roland Garros,
hunted down wildcard Ginepri during a first set that ended 6-0 in
the Spaniard's favor.
The American greeted his capture of the first game of the second set
with a clenched fist of mock celebration but defeat, while somewhat
delayed, was inevitable as he folded 6-0 6-3 6-0.
Kei Nishikori, the ninth seed, had been the day's biggest casualty
before Wawrinka's demise when the Japanese slumped to a 7-6(4) 6-1
6-2 defeat by Slovakia's Martin Klizan.
The start of play was delayed for about one hour, and Maria
Sharapova managed to finish off fellow Russian Ksenia Pervak for the
loss of only three games on the Philippe Chatrier show court before
rain returned to stop play for another hour.
Djokovic was leading 4-1 at the time and, on the resumption, broke
Sousa to love. He then recovered from 0-40 on his own serve to wrap
up the first set with two crushing first serves.
Rain began to fall again with the Serb, who is strongly fancied to
end Nadal's hold on the title, preparing to serve for the set at
5-2. Djokovic sat, looking slightly ridiculous, in a white hooded
waterproof jacket as the umpire decided whether to take the players
Djokovic made a series of faces at the camera before inviting a ball
boy to share his seat, and a soft drink. They chatted under a large
umbrella to the delight of the crowd.
[to top of second column]
When play resumed after five minutes, they shook hands politely
before resuming their previous roles. "It was a nice, fun time,
something unusual for the grand slams," said Djokovic.
"We waited for around 10 minutes in the pouring rain on the court,
so I felt there's something I should do and make a new friend. He
accepted the offer to sit down, which I didn't think he would do."
During the match, the players' first serves were kicking up sprays
of wet clay. "The court is not in great shape at the moment, balls
get heavier, and the more difficult it is to move. Everything
becomes slower, so it is more effort on your body," Djokovic said.
Nadal, playing on the Court Suzanne Lenglen, was held in check by
world No.279 Ginepri for several games in the second set but his
relentless power and attritional accuracy from the baseline proved
too much for the 31-year-old American.
"Obviously coming from Tallahassee Challenger no one is hitting like
that," Ginepri told reporters.
Nadal, ever the perfectionist at a venue where he has suffered only
one defeat in a decade, said: "I finished the match playing not that
good, but it was a solid start."
The last few games were played in weak sunshine but the forecast is
for further periods of rain during the first week of the second
grand slam of the year.
The warmup on Philippe Chatrier featured seventh seed and 2012
champion Sharapova in fetching pink and Pervak in what looked like
army camouflage trousers and jacket.
Winner of the Stuttgart and Madrid claycourt titles, Sharapova went
on the attack early, moving her left-handed compatriot around the
court at will and won 6-1 6-2.
Czech Petra Kvitova, the fifth seed, beat Karina Diyas of Kazakhstan
7-5 6-2 and there were also wins for seeds Sabine Lisicki, last
year's losing Wimbledon finalist, Flavia Pennetta, the winner at
Indian Wells this year, and Dominika Cibulkova.
Australia's Sam Stosur thrashed Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 6-1 6-1
despite playing with five stitches in her leg following an accident
in the gym last week.
(Reporting By Robert Woodward, Editing by Martyn Herman)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.