Men’s top seed Rafael Nadal dropped three games in his opening match on a wet day at tennis’s French Open, where he’s trying to win an unprecedented ninth title. Third-seeded Stan Wawrinka was ousted in the first round.
Nadal struck 27 winners yesterday to beat Robby Ginepri of the U.S., 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 on the Court Suzanne Lenglen, the second show court at Roland Garros in Paris. The defending champion normally opens his title defense on the main Court Philippe Chatrier.
The 27-year-old Nadal has now won 60 matches on the Parisian clay, with his lone defeat dating back to the fourth round in 2009, against Sweden’s Robin Soderling.
Australian Open champion Wawrinka was upset by Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in four sets. Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic raced past their opponents to move to the second round as rain disrupted play at tennis’s clay court Grand Slam.
Today, when the forecast is for overcast weather with some late showers, China’s Li Na, the second seed, takes on Kristina Mladenovic of France, while fifth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer opens his tournament against Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands. Britain’s Andy Murray plays Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan.
The second-seeded Djokovic beat Portugal’s Joao Sousa, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, on the main Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros in a match that was interrupted twice by rain.
“It was heavy conditions, ugly tennis, a lot of unforced errors, but I was trying to stay mentally tough,” Djokovic said in a court-side interview.
Djokovic entertained the crowd during the second rain delay -- when the players waited for 10 minutes on court -- with facial expressions whenever he appeared on a giant stadium screen. He also had a chat on his bench with one of the ball boys while they sat under an umbrella, and he offered him a drink.
“I tried to take the best out the rain delay, we had a nice chat, he is a tennis player as well,” Djokovic said.
Earlier in the day, spectators wrapped in rain jackets, hats and winter coats saw Sharapova fire 17 winners past fellow Russian Ksenia Pervak. The start of Sharapova’s match -- the first of the day on the main show court -- had been delayed by more than an hour because of rain, with hundreds of spectators trying to hide from the weather underneath the main stadium.
“First matches at Grand Slams are always tough, no matter how prepared you are, no matter how many matches you’ve played,” Sharapova said in a news conference.
“There is always a bit more tension in that type of Grand Slam atmosphere,” said Sharapova, the champion in Paris two years ago. “It’s certainly more special, especially when you walk out on court. Considering all that, I thought I played a solid match, did the things I had to do.”
Garcia-Lopez, a 30-year-old from Spain, beat Wawrinka, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 6-0. It was the first time since 2011 that the 41-ranked Garcia-Lopez won his opening round match at Roland Garros. Wawrinka, 29, had won four of the six times they’d played before yesterday.
“It’s an amazing feeling to beat the world no. 3 -- he’s one of the favorites in the tournament,” Garcia-Lopez said in a courtside interview. “I played a very consistent and solid game and I’m very happy.”
Wawrinka is the first Australian Open champion to lose in the first round of the subsequent Roland Garros since Petr Korda in 1998. The last Grand Slam champion to lose in the opening round of the next major was reigning Roland Garros champion Nadal at 2013 Wimbledon.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the No. 9 seed from Japan, lost to Slovakia’s Martin Klizan, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1, 6-2. Nishikori, who led Nadal in the finals of the Madrid Masters earlier this month before injuring his back, had been a 10-1 shot for the title at U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc. (WMH)
“I was playing well on clay in Europe, so it’s very sad for me to lose first round here,” said Nishikori, who hadn’t been able to practice much since Madrid.
Other seeds to advance include Wimbledon finalist and No. 16 seed Sabine Lisicki of Germany and Australian Open runner-up and No. 9 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, who both won in straight sets. Croatia’s Marin Cilic, the No. 25 seed, France’s 29th-seeded Gilles Simon and former U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur of Australia also won.
Argentine 24-year-old Facundo Bagnis, playing in the first five-set match of his career, outlasted France’s Julien Benneteau, 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 3-6, 18-16, in a 4-hour 27-minute match.
After winning 10 tournaments last year, Nadal, a 13-time Grand Slam champion, has struggled on his beloved clay this season. He’d entered Roland Garros with three losses and only one tournament win in Europe on the sport’s slowest surface. That’s his worst preparation since he was 17 years old and just starting out on the men’s tour.
The week before the start of Roland Garros, Nadal blew a lead in the finals of Rome against Djokovic, who earlier in the year added three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker to his coaching team in an attempt to win in Paris. The French Open is the one Grand Slam event that’s eluded Djokovic. He’s lost five times -- including the 2012 finals -- to Nadal.
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