Racquet Reaction

Roland Garros: Garcia-Lopez d. Wawrinka

Monday, May 26, 2014 /by
AP Photos
AP Photos

Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka condensed his name before the French Open began; Guillermo Garcia-Lopez shortened the third seed's stay in Paris today.

The 41st-ranked Spaniard failed to survive the second round in nine of 10 prior French Open appearances, but rarely looked stressed in writing Wawrinka out of the tournament with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 6-0 opening-round upset.

Playing as a Top 3 seed for the first time in a Grand Slam, a skittish Wawrinka was his own worst enemy, littering 62 unforced errors and looking dazed and confused in surrendering nine consecutive games to close a horror show performance. The 2013 French Open quarterfinalist could not find the court for stretches of the final set to slow his freefall, and fell apart in exiting the opening round for just the second time in 10 Roland Garros appearances.

It was a benign beginning as Wawrinka hit an inside-out forehand to break for a 3-1 lead. Then Garcia-Lopez began burrowing balls out of the corners while Wawrinka started pulling the trigger prematurely on his drives down the line. The Spaniard whipped a cross-court forehand pass for break point, broke back on a Wawrinka backhand error, and consolidated at 30. When Wawrinka, over-hitting again, sailed a backhand beyond the baseline, Garcia-Lopez had a second straight break and a 4-3 lead. The 30-year-old Spaniard exploited 16 unforced errors from Wawrinka in snatching the 36-minute opener.

Drilling a forehand down the line past a diving Garcia-Lopez, Wawrinka broke for a 3-1 second-set lead, only to give back the break at love straying while playing too close to the lines. Wawrinka worked through a tricky 15-30 game to hold for 6-5, then earned three set points in the next game. He needed only one. Stepping around his backhand, Wawrinka splattered a forehand return winner down the line to level at a set apiece.

The backhand is Wawrinka's signature shot, but today it was illegible. Missing his one-hander long, Wawrinka surrendered serve to open the third set. Garcia-Lopez fought off a pair of break points in the next game, then surprised Wawrinka with a second serve down the T for 2-0.

The most puzzling part of Wawrinka's collapse was his inability to pull back a bit, play higher-percentage tennis, and regain his range by working the point. Instead, Stan repeatedly tried to solve his issues loading up for one big blast—only to hit himself into oblivion.

Things got so bad for Wawrinka that he mis-judged a routine rally ball and spaced out, inexplicably stopping to watch a Garcia-Lopez shot he assumed was floating long. He was wrong. The ball landed inside the line, Garcia-Lopez held for 4-2, then broke for 5-2 when Wawrinka again sent a down-the-line backhand long.

Garcia-Lopez saved two break points, then Wawrinka completely lost the plot burying a backhand into the bottom of the net and wailing a wild forehand return five feet wide to end the third set.

Though Garcia-Lopez had split four career clay-court meetings with Wawrinka, won the Casablanca title on clay, and beat No. 5 Tomas Berdych en route to the Monte Carlo quarterfinals in April, he actually has a better career winning percentage on grass (.535) than he does on dirt (.492). Solid in all areas but lacking a single dominant weapon, Garcia-Lopez managed the match wisely and worked the ball around the court, giving Wawrinka every opportunity to continue a scatter-shot effort that ended with the Swiss clanking another backhand deep—his 62nd unforced error—bringing an end to a dismal day.

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