Newspaper article International New York Times

Wawrinka Struggles as His Title Defense Begins

Newspaper article International New York Times

Wawrinka Struggles as His Title Defense Begins

Article excerpt

On another day with rain delays in Paris, Stan Wawrinka nearly became the first defending French Open champion to lose in the first round.

A year ago, dressed in a pair of garish pink-and-gray plaid shorts that became a symbol of his success, Stan Wawrinka made the French Open his own by stunning Novak Djokovic in the final.

This year, Wawrinka came dressed in a fluorescent yellow-green shirt atop black shorts that made him stand vividly against the red clay of Roland Garros.

But Wawrinka did not need any special attire to gain attention, not after being the previous year's surprise winner. What he almost gained was the unwelcome glare that would have accompanied his becoming the first defending champion to lose in the first round of the French Open.

Wawrinka, the No.3 seed, walked triumphantly back onto Philippe Chatrier Court on Monday but had only a brief moment to enjoy the sensation. He lost the first set to the giant killer Lukas Rosol and fell behind, two sets to one, before narrowly escaping with a five- set victory, 4-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

"I came back to play a match, not to enjoy and think about what I did last year," Wawrinka said. "For sure, when I enter the court, I had all the memory from last year. But after that, I was here to beat Rosol today."

Although it was the second day of the tournament, it had the feel of an opening session after much of Sunday's schedule was wiped out by rain. Monday's issue was a shortage of sunlight.

The rain ended in the early afternoon, but the conditions remained chilly, overcast and damp throughout.

When darkness finally enveloped the grounds, a few matches hung in the balance, including a surprisingly tense affair between No.2- seeded Andy Murray and the 37-year-old qualifier Radek Stepanek, which was called in the fourth set.

Also suspended because of darkness Monday was John Isner's match with John Millman of Australia after a marathon second-set tiebreaker. Isner won it, 14-12, when Millman missed an overhead slam, evening the match at one set apiece. …

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