Well, so much for that. Stanislas Wawrinka is out, an unceremonious first-round exit in Paris, to 39th-ranked Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain. Not only did he lose, but he looked terrible doing it, getting broken twice in the third set and then bageled (losing the set 6-0) in the decider. Earlier, I said that he probably had the easiest path to the later rounds, and that quarter of the draw is undoubtedly the most wide-open of them all. I’ll reiterate here; watch out for Gaël Monfils. He’s always dangerous in his home country, on the clay he grew up playing on. Then again, what do I know? Andy Murray could come out strong and kill all the predictions, as could Italian Fabio Fognini, who looked strong in his first-round win.
Wawrinka was thoughtful after the loss:
“I think it’s just a different story, now it’s a different picture for my career. I need to put the puzzle back together, but differently than in the past, because now it’s, after winning Grand Slam, Masters 1000, being No. 3 in the world, everything is different, and I still didn’t find all the pieces.”
I’m not, nor have I ever been, a professional tennis player. But this seems to be a truly introspective, soul-searching collection of thoughts from a guy who recently found himself catapulted to heights he’d never really come close to before. It gets at an interesting point; namely, that dealing with the expectations and pressure of being someone who is expected to win is exhausting and confusing. Winning is always welcome, the aftereffects perhaps not as much.
What’s unexpected is that Wawrinka looked strong in this clay court season, winning in Monte Carlo, beating his compatriot and doubles partner, Roger Federer. Maybe the Grand Slam environment was just too much to handle: what we interpreted as him having figured it out clearly didn’t translate the same way for him. Let’s hope he finds the pieces that got him to where he is, that he rediscovers the form that won him a Grand Slam back in January, and that he takes that form into Wimbledon and beyond. I personally really enjoy having him in the upper echelon of tour players, if only because it provides some break in the dominance of the “Big Four.” Having someone around who appears to be a truly articulate human being, who produces thoughts like that one expressed above, can’t be a bad thing.
In other news, and rather disappointingly, Kei Nishikori went down in three quick sets to Martin Klizan of Slovakia. He claimed that he was healthy heading into the tournament, but the way that he got weaker going along (losing first in a tiebreak and then 1 and 2), in a match that took just less than two hours, puts a dent in that claim. I hope he recovers enough in time for Wimbledon, he’s a wonderful talent with great footwork, someone who could be great fun to watch for years to come.
Keep it right here.