LONDON: Stan Wawrinka’s Wimbledon hopes were shredded in the first round on Monday as the fifth seed, hobbled by a niggling knee injury, came up against one of tennis’s new generation of heavy hitters in the shape of Russian Daniil Medvedev.
The Swiss three-time Grand Slam champion was out-gunned by 21-year-old Medvedev, who had the Centre Court crowd on their feet as he pulled off a dazzling array of winners to wrap up a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory on his first Wimbledon appearance.
Yet how much of the stunning upset was down to Medvedev’s ability to fire freely from both flanks and how much of it was down to Wawrinka’s discomfort was hard to tell.
The Russian, making only his third Grand Slam appearance and who is ranked 46 places below the world number three, was full of energy as he hauled his giant frame around the court.
After wrapping up a memorable victory in two hours and 12 minutes, he bent down and kissed the turf.
“I have no words to describe this. I guess this memory will be with me forever,” he told reporters.
Wawrinka, who only last month reached the French Open final, will no doubt hope the memory of his sixth first-round Wimbledon exit will not linger.
He had struggled to find any sort of rhythm and was clearly bothered by the niggling knee problem he said had been dogging him since the end of last year.
“I wasn’t feeling the way I wanted to feel,” he said. “But I played against a great player who I think was confident today, was playing well, was playing faster. It was a tough loss.”
Having never got past the quarter-finals at the All England Club, Wimbledon is Wawrinka’s least successful Grand Slam and his hopes of ever completing his collection of majors look forlorn unless he can master the slick lawns.
The Swiss had looked unruffled as he held his opening two service games, dropping just two points, but it was not long before Medvedev found his range and started to put Wawrinka under pressure.
The Russian broke to love in the fifth game of the first set, and crafted two more break points in the seventh as the 32-year-old Wawrinka reeled under a barrage of heavy hitting.
The Swiss briefly sparked into life at the start of the second, levelling the match after breaking for a 2-0 lead and then breaking for a second time in the eighth game after Medvedev had clawed his way back on serve.
They went toe-to-toe in the third set before Wawrinka sent a forehand wide in the 10th game to give the Russian a set point, which he gobbled up to edge back in front.
There was to be no way back for Wawrinka, who was then completely outgunned as Medvedev raced clear in the fourth set, breaking twice to go 5-1 ahead.
He fired down his 10th ace to bring up match point and wrapped up the victory when Wawrinka sent a forehand long, with the Centre Court rising as one to acclaim his efforts.
“It was just something special. I don’t know how to explain it,” said Medvedev who next faces 124th-ranked Belgian Ruben Bemelmans.