May 23, 2016
Sometimes you just have to tough it out and hope your best tennis comes later. That’s what happened to Stan Wawrinka and Garbine Muguruza on Day Two of Roland Garros. They flirted with the exit door. But it wasn’t time to leave.
Defending champion Wawrinka looked distinctly vulnerable against the dangerous Czech, Lukas Rosol, who once defeated Rafael Nadal in the first round at Wimbledon.
Wawrinka faced one particular moment of crisis – and could have become the first reigning French Open champion to be knocked out in the first round the following year.
Already behind by two sets to one, Wawrinka faced two break points in the fifth game of the fourth set. Had Rosol capitalised and then held serve three more times, he would have been home and dry.
Instead he looked tentative as Stan the Man battled his way out of trouble. Rosol had taken the first and third sets, 6-4 and 6-3 respectively. Wawrinka’s 6-1 success had been sandwiched between those more suprising scorelines.
Yet the unpredictable Swiss had struggled for consistency, despite the occasional flash of that genius backhand and bludgeoning forehand.
Fortunately for Wawrinka, an impressive 88% success rate in first serve points allowed him to take the fourth set 6-3 and brought him back onto level terms.
And the champion’s increasingly dependable backhands provided the foundation for a third-game break in the final set.
Finally Wawrinka’s mind seemed to be in a good place. He was playing the big points with more assurance than his opponent.
And that growing confidence put him on the path to victory by 6-4 in the decider.
But a five-set opener lasting more than three hours, in what could become a long title defence, was hardly ideal. And Wawrinka will hope to discover a better rhythm for the rest of French Open fortnight.
Meanwhile Garbina Muguruza survived a monumental scare of her own against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia.
The entire match turned upon an epic first game of the second set, which lasted more than fifteen minutes.
The underdog had no fewer than eight chances to break, yet squandered each one as Muguruza’s never-say-die spirit shone through.
It could have been curtains for the Spaniard had she lost that game. She had already been second best in a first set won by Schmiedlova 6-3. Instead she was eventually able to take the second by the same margin.
Schmiedlova’s resistance crumbled for a while in the deciding set, though she did have the satisfaction of breaking Muguruza at 1-4. She even scrambled back to 3-4 and began to dream once more.
In the final analysis, however, it will be the break points she didn’t take that will probably haunt Schmiedlova for a while. There was yet another opportunity to break and get even at 4-4. But Muguruza provided another convincing answer when it mattered.
Relaxed at last, Muguruza closed in for the kill – and a final powerful forehand proved too much for her adversary and enough to secure the third 6-3.
But the former Wimbledon finalist knew how close she had come to an early exit in Paris – and will have to start better if she is to make a big impression here.
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