French Open: Defending champion Stan Wawrinka survives upset bid in five set thriller

French Open: Defending champion Stan Wawrinka survives upset bid in five set thriller

Defending men’s champion Stan Wawrinka returned to Roland Garros on Monday for the first time as the defending champion, and the third seed needed five sets to avoid the upset-bid by Czech Lukas Rosol

Jake Best

On a cold and rainy day in the capital of France, defending champion and world number four Stan Wawrinka returned to Court Philippe Chatrier for the first time since his victory last year over Novak Djokovic in the finals. After nearly a two-and-a-half-hour delay due to rain, Wawrinka took the court, set to face world number 68 Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic. Fans were treated to a delight of a match, getting to witness five exhilarating sets of tennis between two incredible competitors.

Rosol takes first set from defending champion

The defending champion made his debut as the first match of the day on Court Philippe Chatrier. Because of rain, the match began around 1:30 PM, two and a half hours late. Rosol started the match very quickly, earning a break point; however, Stan saved the break chance, later holding the game with a backhand down-the-line for a winner.

In the fourth game, the Swiss number two earned his first break opportunity but failed to convert, as Rosol hit an ace. In the very next game, Rosol earned a break point, as he continued to terrorize the defending champion’s second serves. On his second break chance, the Czech world number 68 converted with a beautiful drop-shot winner. In the next game, Rosol saved a break point before consolidating his own break with a clean winner that landed on the baseline in the corner.

Both players continued to hold until Rosol was ready to serve for the set up 5-4. Stan made a push to 30-30, but Rosol took the opening set as he watched a Wawrinka backhand sail long. In the opening set, the 30-year-old Czech hit 69% of his first serves, whereas Wawrinka only hit 57%. The cold and windy conditions had an effect on both players, particularly Wawrinka, who did not look comfortable on the same court that he dominated last year.

Wawrinka storms back to take second set

After the sluggish opening set, the two-time Grand Slam champion snapped back into his winning style of play. However, Rosol continued to play well. It took Wawrinka four games to see his first break point of the set. Stan the man was still unable to convert, as Rosol saved the break point with an overhead winner.

Shortly after, as Rosol approached the net on a deuce point, Wawrinka hit a beautiful flick-forehand that glided right past the Czech. On the next point, however, the world number four still couldn’t find a way to convert his break chances. Wawrinka continued to fight. On his third break chance of the game, Wawrinka finally converted, as a Rosol backhand sailed wide. The Swiss number two quickly consolidated the break, hitting an ace to close the game out at love.

In the sixth game, the defending champion decided that another break was necessary. On his second chance of the game, Wawrinka broke Rosol once again, leaping out to a 5-1 lead. He consolidated that break, serving out the 32-minute set, taking it 6-1. The major key to this set was the first serve percentages once again. From set one to set two, Wawrinka’s first serve percentage increased from 57 percent to 70 percent, while Rosol’s percentage dropped from 69 percent to 47 percent.

Wawrinka tracks down the shot before ripping the forehand. Credit: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Wawrinka tracks down the shot before ripping the forehand. Credit: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Rosol continues strong play by taking third set

Just when it seemed as if the defending champion had gotten a hold on the match, Rosol had other ideas. The conditions were tricky all match long, as the wind continued to pick up and the temperatures stayed in the low 50s Fahrenheit. Early on, the world number 68 from the Czech Republic broke the Swiss’ serve, going up 2-0 before consolidating to go up 3-0. Both players held serve from here on out, until Rosol took the third set by a score of 6-3. Suddenly, the defending champion and world number four was on the brink of being ousted in round one.

On the brink of defeat, Wawrinka pushes match to decisive fifth set

The fourth set continued the back-and-forth nature of this thrilling matchup. Rosol and Wawrinka battled back-and-forth in the second game before Rosol eventually held with an ace. Wawrinka knew that if he were to come back and win this match, he would need to step up, and he did just that. In the eighth game of the set, the Swiss number two finally broke through, breaking Rosol on a backhand winner. In the next game, the defending champion took the fourth set, knotting the match at two sets all.

Rosol stretches as far as possible to reach the Wawrinka serve. Credit:
Rosol stretches as far as possible to reach the Wawrinka serve. Credit:  Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images

Defending champion survives near-upset to advance to second round

On this cold and rainy day in Paris, after an almost three-hour delay to begin the day, Wawrinka and Rosol provided a great match. at this point, two sets all, it was anyone’s best guess as to whom would be victorious. Wawrinka fell out of Roland Garros in the first round in 2014 before recovering to take the title last year.

Without a doubt, he did not want to repeat his same memories of the 2014 campaign. The world number four pounced in the third game, breaking the Czech on an unforced error by Rosol. In the end, this one break was all Wawrinka needed to survive the upset bid by the same man who famously upset the king of clay, Rafael Nadal, at Wimbledon in 2012.

The third seed advances to the second round, where he will face Taro Daniel of Japan. Daniel was in the fifth set of his matchup with Martin Klizan before Klizan was forced to retire.