PARIS – The positive vibes and big-deal victories began for Stan Wawrinka at last year’s U.S. Open, back when he still went by “Stanislas,” and picked up steam at this year’s Australian Open, where he earned the right to forever be called a major champion.
And yet all of that seemed far away Monday at the French Open as dusk approached — and defeat became apparent — in Wawrinka’s first match at a Grand Slam tournament since winning his first major title.
Wawrinka looked listless. The Swiss player didn’t look like the man who was seeded No. 3 behind No. 1 Rafael Nadal of Spain and Novak Djokovic of Serbia and proclaimed himself “one of the favorites” a few days earlier.
In by far the biggest development of the tournament’s first two days, Wawrinka lost in the first round on the red clay at Roland Garros.
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Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who is ranked 41st in the world, beat Wawrinka 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 6-0.
“I was trying to find my game, trying … to be aggressive, trying to find anything. And I didn’t,” said Wawrinka, whose trademark one-handed backhand was off target for most of the match. “I was completely flat.”
Wawrinka is the first Australian Open champion to exit in the first round of that year’s French Open since Petr Korda in 1998.
Garcia-Lopez has never been past the third round at a major.
While he has not been beyond the quarterfinals at the French Open, Wawrinka seemed primed to do so.
Instead, he lost in the first round in Paris for the first time since 2006, when he was 21.
“I need to put the puzzle back together, but differently than in the past,” Wawrinka said. “Because now — after winning a Grand Slam … being No. 3 in the world — everything is different.”
Wawrinka — who recently told ATP officials he would rather go by the shortened version of his first name — made 62 unforced errors, 34 more than Garcia-Lopez.
“I think what made him lose is he was not very strong mentally — and I was,” Garcia-Lopez said.