Former champ Wawrinka exits, Djokovic through

Still reeling from knee surgeries, former champion Stan Wawrinka lost a five-set battle to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the first round of the French Open yesterday.

Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez celebrates after beating Swiss 23rd seed Stan Wawrinka in the French Open first round at Roland Garros in Paris yesterday.

Still reeling from knee surgeries, former champion Stan Wawrinka lost a five-set battle to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the first round of the French Open yesterday.

Last year’s finalist lasted three-and-a-half hours before bowing out with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 3-6 loss to the 67th-ranked Spaniard.

Returning to the place where he claimed the second of his three Grand Slam titles did not help Wawrinka shake off his poor form. The Swiss player, No. 30 in the world, looked a shadow of the player who won the title in Paris three years ago, struggling with his serve and hitting 72 unforced errors.

Wawrinka — seeded 23 — did not go down easily, though, and put on a big fight during a match that produced some spectacular baseline rallies on Court Suzanne Lenglen. But he was ultimately made to pay for his inconsistent display.

“There is no frustration, it’s just tough,” Wawrinka said. “But I’m on the right way. It was very close today.”

The 33-year-old Wawrinka has struggled with his fitness after undergoing knee surgeries in August. This was only his 11th match of the year.

Garcia-Lopez had already upset Wawrinka in the first round at Roland Garros when they met in Paris four years ago. He will next play Karen Khachanov of Russia.

The pair was joined in the second round by former champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia, who advanced with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over qualifier Rogerio Dutra Silva of Brazil.

The 12-time Grand Slam champion dropped serve three times and will have to markedly improve to challenge Rafael Nadal in the latter stages of the tournament, but he was still far too good for Dutra Silva on Court Philippe Chatrier.

“It was good to start this year with a win. I wasn’t at my best, he played with a lot of spin. I didn’t play very well, but I won in three sets,” said the 20th seed, who will next face Jaume Munar who ousted Spanish compatriot David Ferrer.

Seventh-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria beat Ilya Ivashka of Belarus, 6-2, 6-4, 6-1.

In women’s play, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova made it to the second round after defeating Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay 3-6, 6-1, 7-5, while former top-ranked player Victoria Azarenka lost 5-7, 5-7 to Katerina Siniakova.

The No. 8-seeded Kvitova needed 2 hours, 7 minutes to overcome her 87th-ranked opponent. Kvitova’s best run in Paris was to the semifinals in 2012. She lost in the second round last year while making her Grand Slam return after an assailant attacked her with a knife at her home in December 2016, requiring extensive surgery to her left hand, her playing hand.

Azarenka, a semifinalist in Paris five years ago, is ranked 84th after giving birth to a son in December 2016. After a poor claycourt campaign punctuated by early exits in Madrid and Rome, the two-time Grand Slam champion was unable to turn things around against the 54th-ranked Czech Siniakova. The Belarussian hit 38 unforced errors on the remote Court 18.

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