What was billed as an opening-day classic between two old warriors turned into a damp squib as Stan Wawrinka crushed Andy Murray 6-1 6-3 6-2 at the French Open on Sunday.
The last time they met on Court Philippe Chatrier, in the 2017 semifinal, Wawrinka came through a five-set slugfest but this time it proved a painfully one-sided affair as Murray suffered his equal worst Grand Slam beating.
When the opening three games on a near-empty showcourt took around 20 minutes, another battle royal looked possible between the players who both own three Grand Slam titles.
But as 16th seed Wawrinka, champion in Paris in 2015, raised his game, Murray, who wore black leggings on a chilly evening, capitulated alarmingly with his trademark battling qualities conspicuous by their absence.
“I need to have a long hard think about it. It's not the sort of match I would just brush aside and not think about it,” Murray, whose previous worst loss was a 6-3 6-2 6-1 hammering at the hands of Rafa Nadal at the 2014 French Open, told reporters.
“I need to understand why the performance was like that.”
Murray's defeat by Wawrinka in 2017 after an epic four and a half hour tussle proved almost the final straw for a crumbling hip that has since required two surgeries, the second of which has left him with a metal joint.
But the 33-year-old returned to singles action last year and actually beat Wawrinka to win the Antwerp title in October -- a result that raised hopes he could again challenge at the top.
He was soundly beaten by young Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime in the second round of the U.S. Open though and was hit off court by 35-year-old Wawrinka who has also been forced to come back from knee surgery.
Murray landed only 36% of his first serves which was never going to end well against a player with Wawrinka's bullish groundstrokes.
“That's just not good enough, really, against anyone, and especially someone as good as Stan,” he said.
The normally vocal Scot barely uttered a word during the match and even his usually sublime touch was off with one dropshot late in the second set failing to reach the net.
While Murray was a shadow of his former self, Wawrinka, who plays 61st-ranked Dominik Koepfer of Germany next, fired a warning that he could be a threat.
It was only his second Tour-level match since the resumption of tennis from the coronavirus shutdown, but he served magnificently and clubbed 42 winners to Murray's 10.
With the conditions likely to remain heavy, Wawrinka will be confident of an extended run.
“I've had some amazing matches with Andy. I was expecting a tough match. But I was really focused. Even if the scoreboard is one-sided like today, you never know what can happen.
“It's great to be back, great to feel that way, and looking forward for the next match.”
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