in the “duel of the grandpas”, Stan Wawrinka extinguishes Andy Murray in the first round


Stan Wawrinka, during his first round against Andy Murray, during the Roland-Garros tournament, May 26, 2024. ALAIN JOCARD / AFP

And suddenly, the adolescent and still slightly nasal voice of Britney Spears woke up the short Philippe-Chatrier, at the time of the first yawns. “Oh, baby, baby (…)/Give signed me/Hit me, baby, one more time.” Sunday May 26, for its inaugural evening, the organizers of Roland-Garros had planned to lull the nostalgics.

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On the menu, a black and white poster between two sacred monsters, Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray, both 76 years old on the court. A former world number one against a former Top 3, two triple Grand Slam winners, what’s more, the only ones to have shaken up the reign of the “Big 3” embodied by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

In this twilight confrontation literally and figuratively, this fourth face-to-face of their career at Roland, the former winner (2015) once again taught the 2016 finalist a lesson: 6-4, 6-4 , 6-2.

Seven or eight years ago, the two players crossed swords in the last four of the Grand Slams. From now on, the Swiss (39 years old) and the British (37 years old) meet more often in the first round.

Old cacochyme briscards

Injuries and operations did not get the better of the two veterans, who continue to pace the circuit, despite their crippled and multiple trauma health records. Murray (75e world) has been walking since 2019 with a titanium hip. Wawrinka underwent surgery on his left knee twice in 2017 – an arthroscopy, then a bone and cartilage graft. Murray arrived at Porte d’Auteuil just recovered from an ankle injury. Wawrinka (97e world) withdrew from Rome, the last stop before Roland-Garros, because of a sore right wrist.

Under the black sky of the Philippe-Chatrier court, the spectators applauded the two players duly for two hours and twenty minutes. At least those who were not in the presidential gallery (empty) and the boxes, deserted by the time their occupants deigned to finish their dinner.

Shorts and shoes matching the ball, “Stan the man” (it is written on the pockets of his rackets) showed that his one-handed backhand was not rusty, showing off the whole range: from short cross to long of line, from the grazing bullet to the missile piercing the Scottish wall…

The dean of the locker room arrived on the Parisian clay court with only three victories (for nine defeats) since the start of the season… which could be the last, just like his opponent for the evening. But both decided to extend the farewell tour and, between two Challengers (the second division of tennis), to invite themselves to the feast of a Grand Slam. Just to taste a little more of the exhilaration of the gala atmosphere before going to the tournament of legends.


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But on this Parisian clay that he has never really liked, the Briton’s limits – and unforced errors – are magnified under the magnifying glass. The defender, who has long enjoyed long rallies, is now even trying cushioning to shorten the rally. In October 2020, Wawrinka crushed it into three small sets in an autumn version of the tournament (Covid-19 pandemic requires) on this same Philippe-Chatrier court. On Sunday, he did not exist against his rival and friend, as evidenced by the long embrace at the net between the two men.

“We have had huge battles for 15-20 years, there are a lot of emotions, we are not young anymore, we are reaching the end, so we try to make the most of it, the Swiss will say. I am the oldest in the table but in my head I am still a child, I want to continue. »

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On a final backhand along the line, he prolonged the desire to want. “I had a series of bad defeats [cette saison]. It stopped me from wanting to hustle. But I never forgot why I play tennis. It’s not because I’m getting older that I don’t have the same happiness when I come here,” said the last player to win the tournament with a one-handed backhand on Friday. The last one to have lifted the Musketeers Cup wearing shorts ” awful ” (dixit Federer), halfway between pajamas and… Scottish print.

Elisabeth Pineau

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