"Thought he was back in the locker room a long time ago," a colleague of mine said about Stan Wawrinka, after hearing of the Swiss' shocking 0-6, 7-5, 6-3 loss to Marco Cecchinato at the Monte Carlo Masters. And on a busy day in the Principality—as I write this, Borna Coric has just completed a three-hour and 28-minute second-round win over Jaume Munar—it was understandable if you let your eyes wander after a such a decisive first set. It was a three-time Grand Slam champion finding his vintage form against last year's surprise French Open semifinalist, and there wasn't much else to say.
Although the second set wasn't as straightforward for Wawrinka, he served for the match at 6-0, 5-3. That's when the hairpin turn began.
"After serving for it, it was a letdown," said Tennis Channel's Chanda Rubin, who called the match. "He got a little frustrated and didn't quite recover. It's tough emotionally to get yourself back up after losing a lead like that."
Social media reaction to Wawrinka's loss is as decisive as his play was in the first set. But Cecchinato's ability to wipe away an embarrassing start is the real story here. Wawrinka lost the plot, and then the match, but the Italian still needed to do his part to make a match of this at all.
"He just battled, and found a way to get into the match," said Rubin.
Considering Cecchinato's triumphs less than a year ago, at the most pressure-packed clay-court tournament of them all—he not only beat Novak Djokovic, but Pablo Carreno Busta and David Goffin as well—should we really be too surprised here? Perhaps. The moral of this Monte Carlo story, and of last year's French Open, is to put Cecchinato away while you can.