Another day on the clay at the French Open, another reigning Australian Open champion bites the red dust. Li Na lost her first Grand Slam match since winning the title in Melbourne, falling to Kristina Mladenovic of France 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 on Tuesday.
The loss came a day after men’s Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka was eliminated in the first round — the first time at any Grand Slam tournament that the men’s and women’s singles champions from the previous major lost in the first round.
Li, who won the French Open title in 2011 and is seeded second this year, ended up with 37 unforced errors on a cool and overcast day at Roland Garros. Mladenovic had only 25 errors.
“Nobody says if you (are) No. 2 in the world you have to win all the matches. I mean, this is tennis,” Li said. “I think doesn’t matter who plays today against me, I always lose the match today, because I don’t think she … put a lot of pressure (on) me. I think today just I gave it away.”
Mladenovic began the day 1-5 at the French Open. She reached the second round last year after four straight first-round exits, including a loss to Li in 2010 in their only previous meeting.
“You don’t beat Li Na every day,” Mladenovic said. “It means a lot, especially in a Grand Slam.”
The last reigning Australian Open women’s champion to lose in the first round here was Lindsay Davenport in 2000.
On Monday, Wawrinka lost to 41st-ranked Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 6-0.
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”. Yet, 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 little like a guy who was seeded No. 3 behind Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic and proclaimed himself “one of the favourites” just a few days earlier.
“I was trying to find my game, trying … to be aggressive, trying to find anything. And I didn’t,” said Wawrinka, whose trademark one-handed backhanded was off-target throughout the match. “I was completely flat.”
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 continued…