Paris: Defending French Open champion Stan Wawrinka survived a huge first-round scare against Lukas Rosol on Monday, scraping his way to a 4-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory in over three hours.
Never at Roland Garros had the men’s singles champion lost in the opening round the following year, but the third-seeded Swiss was in danger of making unwanted history after twice falling a set behind.
Wawrinka, who defeated the Czech on Friday in the Geneva Open semi-finals, dropped the opening set on Court Philippe Chatrier after surrendering his serve in game five.
The world number four rattled through the second set to level and seemingly get back on track, but 59th-ranked Rosol appeared on course for a repeat of his stunning 2012 win over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon when he moved ahead once more in the third.
Wawrinka was forced to defend a pair of break points at 2-all in the fourth, with the Swiss then ripping a trademark cross-court backhand passing shot to move 5-3 ahead and send the contest to a fifth set.
The defending champion forged ahead with a crucial break in the third game of the decider before closing it out to book a second-round match-up with Japan’s Taro Daniel.
“It was a really tough match today, the conditions were slow and heavy,” said Wawrinka, with the start to Monday’s play delayed by two and a half hours after more heavy rain in the French capital.
“It was a typical first-round match, I didn’t play my best tennis and made a lot of mistakes. But he was playing really well.
“He was going for his shots all the time and wasn’t missing much until he started to tire a little in the fourth and fifth set. But before that I was always under pressure.
“It’s a good thing to get through, but it’s never the best to start with a five-set match and not play your best.
“I’m really happy with the way I found solutions. It’s a good victory, he was playing really well and it wasn’t easy for me to get into the match. Now I have the chance to keep improving for the rest of the tournament.”
Wawrinka admitted he was unaware no reigning champion had ever suffered an opening-round exit in Paris, grinning while replying: “And it’s still not the case, so it’s good.”
Rosol, whose run to the third round at the Australian Open in January was also ended by Wawrinka, said memories of his stunning win over Nadal four years ago hadn’t sprung to mind when another upset looked possible.
“I had my chances today, I wanted payback after Geneva,” said Rosol. “I didn’t think about the Nadal match — it was totally different. I just tried to focus on today.
“I played a good match and hope I can continue this good level for the next tournaments.”