Stan Wawrinka pleased with return from injury despite second round exit, Konta and Muguruza also crash out

Sport360 staff 18:04 18/01/2018
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Struggling Swiss former champion Stan Wawrinka’s Australian Open campaign is over after a convincing second round defeat by American Tennys Sandgren on Thursday, while Garbine Muguruza and Johanna Konta also crashed out.

The 97th-ranked Sandgren downed ninth-seeded Wawrinka 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 and will next play Germany’s Maximilian Marterer.

Wawrinka, who was playing in his first tournament since Wimbledon six months ago following double knee surgery, was nowhere near his best and is still rebuilding following a lengthy absence from the game.

“Today was extremely tough to feel that way on the court, to lose that way, even if he was playing well,” Wawrinka said.

“When you have won three Grand Slams, you don’t feel great on the court like today. But I need to be still positive. I think the last 12 days was more than what I could have dreamed for coming here.

“I really came without thinking I will be able to play the first match. That’s a big step for me.

“I only had surgery five months and three days ago and to be that far already, it’s more than what we could have expected with my team.”

He was never in the contest and had his serve broken five times and made only 21 winners and 35 unforced errors.

The triple Grand Slam winner, who defeated Rafael Nadal to win the 2014 Australian Open, has slipped to nine in the world rankings and faces a battle to climb higher after his early round exit.

He made the semi-finals at last year’s Australian Open where he lost to eventual champion Roger Federer in five sets.

Wawrinka had a troubled lead-in to the year’s opening Grand Slam, pulling out of an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi on his way to Australia.

He had not played a competitive match prior to his first round win over Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis, having only decided to take part last weekend.

“My plan is to leave here and go back to practice, especially fitness-wise at the beginning,” said Wawrinka, who has runner-up points to defend at the French Open in June.

“I know I have a lot of work to do. I need to be really patient. It’s going to be tough. But I’m ready for it.”

He said his next tournaments would be Marseille and Rotterdam.

Sandgren’s next opponent, world No. 94 Marterer, reached the third round with a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-3 win over Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco, who had upset No. 20 seed Roberto Bautista Agut in his Melbourne opener.

Third-seeded Muguruza succumbed to the sweltering heat as she fell 7-6 (1), 6-4 to Taipei’s Hsieh Su-Wei in one hour and 59 minutes earlier in the day on Rod Laver Arena.

Ninth-seeded Konta of Great Britain was sent packing by Croatian-born American world No. 123 Bernarda Pera 6-4, 7-5.

Konta, who made the semi-finals in Melbourne on her tournament main draw debut in 2016 and reached the quarter-finals last year, said her defeat was not a “massive catastrophe” as she contemplated an early flight home.

The ninth seed had been tipped as one of the contenders for the title in a wide open field.

She looked in good form in her opening win over Madison Brengle but struggled to find her game in very hot conditions at Melbourne Park and came up against an inspired opponent.

Pera had never even played in a Grand Slam let alone won a match before arriving in Australia and appeared to be going home after losing to Viktorija Golubic in the final round of qualifying only to be given a second chance when Margarita Gasparyan withdrew.

There was no doubt the 23-year-old played well above her ranking but this was a poor performance from Konta and another sign of the anxiety issues that have stemmed from the five-match losing sequence with which she finished 2017.

Konta said: “I think she played very inspired and I didn’t quite do as much as I wanted. I think in the points I did okay, and I think I stayed quite strong. But I don’t think I did enough with my service games, and I don’t think I did enough with my returns.

“It’s a bit frustrating, but I’m still taking good stuff from this. I don’t feel, by any means, it’s a massive catastrophe. I play every event to be there until the end, so I definitely don’t want to be going home this early.

“But I think in terms of building myself back up again and then playing the way I want to play, I think I keep moving forward.”

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