By Ros Satar, at Roland Garros

  • Former champion Stan Wawrinka outlasts Stefanos Tsitsipas
PARIS, FRANCE – The tournament came to life on second Sunday with a scintillating five-setter as 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka kept pretender to the throne Stefanos Tsitsipas at bay.

 

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Stan Wawrinka [24] def. Stefanos Tsitsipas [6] 7-6(8) 5-7 6-4 3-6 8-6

We often look to the new batch of players and wonder, when will they break through and who will be the first to claim a Slam. We have, in the past, held high hopes for the likes of Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev and in all likelihood, Dominic Thiem was the closest last year after reaching the final here.In the newest of the new batch, Stefanos Tsitsipas, with his flowing locks, philosophising as an old soul in the young and dynamic body has looked to be marking his territory in this regard, but would he have what it took to get over the line.

Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first round of Roland Garros 2019, France

Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first round of Roland Garros 2019, France | (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

For old man Wawrinka, knee surgery and a long route back to the top saw him all but written off, but he fought against the aforementioned Dimitrov in a match that carried over two days, and then came back to duel it out with the young philosopher. Their first two sets were predictably close in a match that might not have been a classic – they probably played their best tennis at the same time in these two sets.But as the match wore on, the strain was beginning to tell on Tsitsipas, yelling at himself, his box and anyone in earshot about how he was not inspired at all, and was a ‘freakin’ zombie’ while Wawrinka surreptitiously got the crowed to show him love, cupping his ears to them at pivotal points.

What will hurt Tsitsipas the most was this eight break points that went begging. He looked shell-shocked, admitting that he had cried his heart out following this loss.“I feel exhausted. I don’t know. Never experienced something like this in my life. I feel very disappointed at the end. Long time since I cried after a match, so emotionally wasn’t easy to handle. I will try to learn from it as much as I can.

“I was so close, so close. I give him room to do whatever he likes, all those break points. So many break points. So many.Didn’t play. I was expecting someone else to play it for me. I didn’t play.“Worse thing in tennis. It’s the worst feeling ever. Especially when you lose. You don’t want to be in my place.”

 

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For Wawrinka, he will face Roger Federer in the quarter-final but still found time to savour what he had experienced after three days of gruelling tennis.

He said, after his match: “Playing in front of such a crowd, such a big atmosphere, five-set match in Grand Slam, that’s the reason why I came back from the surgery in the first time, is because I love and enjoy to play in front of people, to play in the biggest tournaments you can play. Today was something really special.

“For sure, last two years were tough, but again, I have been here before. I think I know exactly what I’m doing. I’m happy with everything I’m doing, with my team, practice-wise, physical-wise. Also, knowing that my level is getting there, and hopefully I can keep going. If it’s here, it’s perfect. If not, it’s going to be in the next one.”

With a staggering head to head of 24-3 over his compatriot, Federer will go in as the clear favourite, but it is worth remembering that Wawrinka’s three victories over Federer have all come on European clay, including at the French Open, on the way to his win in 2015.

He continued: “I didn’t beat him many times in all my career, but I did once here, so I still do remember that time and was a special day for me. It’s gonna be a big challenge. Will need to recover from today’s match. It was still a long match. I’m getting old, and older and older, so it is not going to be help to be ready for Tuesday. But again, I love that kind of challenge and I’m going to try to do my best to play my best tennis.”

Play continues in the fourth round at Roland Garros, at 11am (10am BST).

 

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