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.
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“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 has never been past the third round at a major. Wawrinka’s loss means yet another season will pass without the same man winning the Australian Open and French Open; Jim Courier was the last to accomplish that double, in 1992.
Former World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki also made an early exit, about a week after her engagement to two-time major golf champion Rory McIlroy was called off. The 13th-seeded Wozniacki lost to 64th-ranked Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-2.
“What happens in my personal life, I just want to really keep that between my closest people around me,” the former top-ranked Dane said. “I just have to move on.”
Last week, McIlroy announced he and Wozniacki mutually decided to split only days after sending out wedding invitations. They began dating in 2011.
Another player to fall in the first round was Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm, the oldest woman in the field at 43. She lost to 24th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.
Date-Krumm is the third oldest player in French Open singles history; Martina Navratilova was 47 in 2004. She made her main-draw debut at Roland Garros in 1989 — before more than half of this year’s women’s field was even born.
Others who advanced included No. 4 Simona Halep of Romania, No. 6 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, No. 11 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, No. 15 Sloane Stephens of the United States, No. 21 Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, No. 26 Sorana Cirstea of Romania and No. 27 Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia.
In the men’s tournament, 11th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov lost to Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (4).
Two other seeded men retired from their matches and were eliminated, No. 16 Tommy Haas of Germany and No. 21 Nicolas Almagro of Spain. Former top-ranked player Lleyton Hewitt also lost.
Wimbledon champion Andy Murray successfully made his way through his first match at Roland Garros in two years, beating Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
No. 5 David Ferrer of Spain, No. 12 Richard Gasquet of France, No. 19 Kevin Anderson of South Africa, No. 28 Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany and No. 32 Andreas Seppi of Italy also won.
Round 1: Men’s singles: David Ferrer (5), Spain, def. Igor Sijsling, Netherlands, 6-4, 6-3, 6-1; Andy Murray (7), Britain, def. Andrey Golubev, Kazakhstan, 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3; Ivo Karlovic, Croatia, def. Grigor Dimitrov (11), Bulgaria, 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (4); Richard Gasquet (12), France, def. Bernard Tomic, Australia, 6-2, 6-1, 7-5. Women’s Singles: Kristina Mladenovic, France, def. Li Na (2), China, 7-5, 3-6, 6-1; Simona Halep (4), Romania, def. Alisa Kleybanova, Russia, 6-0, 6-2; Jelena Jankovic (6), Serbia, def. Sharon Fichman, Canada, 5-7, 6-1, 6-3; Ana Ivanovic (11), Serbia, def. Caroline Garcia, France, 6-1, 6-3; Yanina Wickmayer, Belgium, def. Caroline Wozniacki (13), Denmark, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-2; Sloane Stephens (15), United States, def. Peng Shuai, China, 6-4, 7-6 (8).