May 28, 2014
Li Na and Stan Wawrinka combined to create the wrong kind of history at Roland Garros yesterday.
The only bonus is that both fallen stars will now be super-fresh for Wimbledon. Never before have both Aussie Open Champions been dumped out of the French Open in the very first round. In fact newly-crowned Grand Slam champions have never been knocked out at the opening stage of the next major anywhere.
If some had predicted that Wawrinka might struggle against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, few foresaw Li Na’s early exit at the hands of French player Kristina Mladenovic, ranked 103 in the world. Li Na, the Roland Garros champion of 2011 never managed to capture her best form in what proved to be her first and last test in this year’s tournament, despite taking the middle set 6-3. Powerful Mladenovic won the opener 7-5 and finished the job with a crushing 6-1 clincher. Li Na struggled with her serve and her coach Carlos Rodriguez shook his head in frustration at her general lack of accuracy.
He might have been angered even further when he heard her post-match confession that she had lost concentration.
‘The problem is myself,’ she admitted. ‘I don’t think I’m doing well on court. And also, even during the match, I don’t think totally about what I should do, like especially I didn’t follow the game plan…In my mind, I didn’t have any idea how to play the match.’
The popular Chinese star knew she had disappointed her millions of fans with such an off-key display. Provoking her coach after her failure was like rubbing salt in her wounds. Now those hoping to see the best of Li Na in Europe this summer will have to book their seats for Wimbledon instead.
As for Wawrinka, the extra pressure brought on by success in Australia didn’t sit any more comfortably. He took the second set 7-5 to level after Garcia-Lopez had won the first 6-4. Yet the Swiss player’s timing was out by a distance as he faded 2-6, 0-6 to bow out in considerable embarrassment.
‘It’s a different story, a different picture for my career, I have to put the puzzle back together,’ said a flummoxed Wawrinka.
At least Murray negotiated his first match, after a troubled third set made the clash unexpectedly tough and exciting. The Wimbledon champion has shown only rare flashes of form since taking his home Slam title last year. But he took out Golubev eventually, winning 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Even so, it seems that the appointment of Murray’s new coach can’t come soon enough.