PARIS – Li Na, the Australian Open champion, followed her male counterpart Stanislas Wawrinka out of the French Open in the first round when she lost 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 to local favorite Kristina Mladenovic on Tuesday.
The No. 2 seed from China, who won the Roland Garros title in 2011, acknowledged she had handed victory to the Frenchwoman through her own failings on another chilly day in Paris.
“I think it doesn’t matter who plays today against me, I always lose the match. Today I just gave it away,” said Li. “Nobody says if you’re No. 2 in the world you have to win all the matches.
“The problem is myself, I don’t think I’m doing well on the court. I didn’t think totally what I should do, like especially I didn’t follow the game plan. In my mind I didn’t have any idea how to play the match.”
David Ferrer, runnerup last year to eight-time champion Rafael Nadal, Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and local favorite Richard Gasquet reached the second round, but 11th seed Grigor Dimitrov was blasted out of the draw by big-serving Ivo Karlovic.
Murray, who missed last year’s clay-court grand slam with a back injury, was the only one of the trio to drop a set in a 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 defeat of Kazakhstan’s Andrey Golubev. Men’s seeds Tommy Haas and Nicolas Almagro were forced to withdraw injured.
Li’s defeat made it the first time that men’s and women’s grand slam champions have been knocked out in the following major in the first round. Wawrinka, the Swiss third seed, lost to Spain’s Guillermo Garcia Lopez in four sets on Monday.
Mladenovic saved two set points in the opener, lost focus in the second but stepped up a gear again in the decider to triumph on her second match point.
“It’s incredible, without you I couldn’t have done it,” a weeping Mladenovic told the cheering crowd.
Another young Frenchwoman, Caroline Garcia, offered far fewer problems for 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic on the same court. The Serbian won 6-1, 6-3 to join the 2009 title winner, Svetlana Kuznetsova, in the second round.
Caroline Wozniacki, the former world No. 1 now seeded 13th, suffered more pain after her break-up with top golfer Rory McIlroy when the Dane lost in three sets to Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium on her return to tennis and the public eye.
Ferrer, the fifth seed who beat world No. 1 Nadal in the Monte Carlo quarterfinals, eased through 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 against Dutchman Igor Sijsling.
The Spaniard said he was not surprised by the early shocks. “The tennis is very close. It’s difficult, this sport,” he said.
Dimitrov, one of the young players expected to challenge the likes of Nadal in Paris, found the giant Croat Karlovic too hot to handle in a 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4) loss.
“Today he was all over the court. He was just hitting his shots, you know, penetrating every volley, low slice, serving really good. He always serves good,” said Dimitrov.
“I just couldn’t find the rhythm, and I couldn’t achieve any of the little opportunities that I had in the match.”
The exits of Dimitrov, Almagro and Haas opens up Nadal’s quarter of the draw and the champion’s first clash with another seed is now likely to be in the quarterfinal at the earliest. He is next on court on Thursday against Austria’s Dominic Thiem.