PARIS -- The positive vibes and big-deal victories began for Stan Wawrinka at last year’s U.S. Open, back when he still went by "Stanislas," and picked up steam at this year’s Australian Open, where he earned the right to forever be called "major champion."
And yet all of that seemed so far away late Monday at the French Open as dusk approached -- and defeat became apparent -- in Wawrinka’s first Grand Slam match since winning his first major title.
Surprisingly, Wawrinka looked listless. More stunningly, he looked very little like a guy who was seeded No. 3 behind Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic and proclaimed himself "one of the favorites" just a few days earlier. In by far the biggest development of the tournament’s first two days, Wawrinka bowed out in the first round at Roland Garros with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 6-0 loss to 41st-ranked Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain.
"The match wasn’t good at all," Wawrinka said. "I don’t have an answer why I didn’t play that good."
He is the first Australian Open champ to exit in the first round of that year’s French Open since Petr Korda in 1998.
Garcia-Lopez has never been past the third round at a Grand Slam tournament.
During a pre-tournament news conference Friday, Wawrinka spoke about deriving confidence from his recent spate of success, saying: "When I’m here now, I know that I can go far.
Yes, he had. Consider his past eight months.
Wawrinka -- long in the shadow of Roger Federer, his Swiss Davis Cup and Olympic teammate, not to mention good friend -- reached his first major semifinal in New York last September, beating defending champion Andy Murray before losing a five-setter to Djokovic. Then, at Melbourne in January, Wawrinka topped Nadal in the Australian Open final.
Boosting his clay-court bona fides heading to Paris, Wawrinka defeated Federer in the final at the Monte Carlo Masters.
While he’s never been beyond the quarterfinals at the French Open, he seemed primed to perhaps make a run to the semifinals this time, where Nadal might have awaited.
But instead, Wawrinka lost in the first round in Paris for the first time since 2006, when he was only 21.
Wawrinka -- who recently told the ATP he’d rather go by the shortened version of his first name -- finished with 61 unforced errors, 33 more than Garcia-Lopez.
Wawrinka’s loss means that yet another season will pass without one man winning both the Australian Open and French Open; Jim Courier was the last to accomplish that double, in 1992.
Nadal and Djokovic, meanwhile, looked very much like the top two seeds.
When No. 2 Djokovic’s first-round victory in the main stadium was interrupted late in the second set by one of the passing showers that made Monday a stop-and-start affair, he pulled a white windbreaker over his head, plopped down on his changeover bench, and invited a ball boy to sit, too. Djokovic lightened the kid’s load by offering to hold a green and brown tournament umbrella, exchanging it for a racket. Then Djokovic handed over a Perrier, grabbed his own orange-colored drink, and the pair clinked bottles, sipped, then had a conversation.
"We had a nice chat. He’s a tennis player, so I asked him how long he’s (been) playing and how he’s enjoying his time as a ball kid," Djokovic related with a smile. "Fun time."
Yes, all’s fun and games when you’re on your way to a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 victory against 44th-ranked Joao Sousa of Portugal.
Nadal won 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 over American Robby Ginepri, a 279th-ranked Georgian who had the misfortune of facing the eight-time champion Monday.
Afterward, Nadal shrugged off the idea that he might have felt snubbed about playing in Court Suzanne Lenglen instead of the tournament’s main stadium.