Defending champion Stan Wawrinka diced with danger but managed to avoid an ignominious first-round exit at the French Open on Monday, scrambling past Czech Lukas Rosol in five sets.
Twice the Swiss third seed trailed by a set on a cold and damp Philippe Chatrier Court but he dug himself out of trouble to win 4-6 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-4.
For a while, with 59th ranked Rosol playing inspired tennis, Wawrinka looked in grave danger of becoming the first reigning men’s singles champion at Roland Garros since tennis turned professional in 1968 to lose in the first round.
The last time a defending champion lost his opening match was Australian Lew Hoad in 1957.
Wawrinka needed to save two break points early in the fourth set as Rosol eyed a shock on the similar scale to his victory over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2012.
From then on he managed to regain some control and a searing backhand set up an early and decisive break in the fifth set.
Rosol saved one match point at 3-5 and another when Wawrinka missed an easy forehand but the relieved Swiss tucked away a volley to progress to the second round.
NISHIKORI INTO SECOND ROUND
Japan’s fifth seed Kei Nishikori reached the second round with a 6-1, 7-5, 6-3 win over Simone Bolelli of Italy.
Nishikori goes on to face Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov after finishing off a first-round tie which had been suspended overnight with him leading 2-1 in the third set.
It was a 50th career Grand Slam match win for Nishikori who made the quarterfinals in Paris in 2015.
Inculdes AFP copy