Stan Wawrinka and Juan Martin Del Potro both registered straight set wins in their respective first round matches at the French Open on Tuesday. Where Wawrinka beat qualifier Jozef Kovalik 6-2, 7-6, 6-3, Del Potro, playing on the outside courts, beat Argentine compatriot Guido Pella 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.
The 2015 champion Wawrinka looked patchy at times on the Suzanne Lenglen court. He hit his trademark one-handed backhand long on numerous instances or netted them while trying to keep the points short against Kovalik who was making his French Open debut.
But Wawrinka did well on the points that mattered including in the second set tiebreak. Trailing 3-6 in the tiebreak, Wawrinka won five straight points to ensure he wasn’t extended in the opening round.
Wawrinka finished off the contest after a well-connected backhand and the relief on his face was clearly visible. The match lasted under two hours and saw the Swiss make 33 unforced errors. He would be relieved to not be forced into a fourth having played on Sunday in the ATP Geneva Open final where he won. “It wasn’t particularly easy after Geneva… but I feel good,” Wawrinka said courtside. “I hope to go deep (into the tournament) this year,” he added. Up next for Wawrinka is Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Returning to the French Open for the first time since 2012, Del Potro got a little lost – in finding the court – but when he did find Court No 6, it was no problem for the big Argentine. “I never find the place where I have to go,” he joked.
Del Potro showed no signs of troubles with the wrist that have kept him out of the game for a lengthy period and away from Roland Garros for five years. For the Argentine, the left wrist has been the trouble and that continues to plague in his final numbers; only one of his winners came from the backhand side.
“I was able to show today that my weak point, which used to be my weak point until recently – my backhand – has got better. I think his strategy was to force me into using the backhand, and he was able to see that it was no longer my weak point and that I was able to use my backhand quite well,” del Potro said about Pella, a Davis Cup teammate. “But it’s true that sometimes I was a little upset, because I know that my backhand is not quite what it used to be.”
Del Potro will now take on Nicolas Almagro in the second round, with a potential run-in with World No 1 Andy Murray in the third round.