LONDON (Reuters) - Italian 10th seed Jannik Sinner won a clash of generations against three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka on Monday, defeating the Swiss wildcard 7-5 4-6 6-3 6-2 in the Wimbledon first round for his maiden victory on grass.
Widely considered as one of the future stars of men's tennis, Sinner has made the quarter-finals of the Australian and French Opens but had yet to win a Tour-level match on grass before Monday.
The Italian lost his opening match on his main draw debut at the grasscourt major last year and came into this year's tournament having gone down to American Tommy Paul in the opening round at the Eastbourne tune-up event last week.
But he hit his stride early under overcast skies against Wawrinka, pinning the Swiss to the back of the court with his powerful groundstrokes.
"It feels amazing, obviously," Sinner said in his on-court interview. "It took a little bit, but I'm happy to be in the second round here.
"Against Stan, it was a very tough match because he is an incredible champion and he showed it so many times. I wish him all the best to come back stronger."
The 37-year-old Wawrinka won the last of his three major titles at the 2016 U.S. Open and returned to the tour in March after a year on the sidelines due to two surgeries on his left foot in 2021.
He came into Monday's contest having won both previous meetings in 2019 against Sinner, who is 17 years younger, but the pair had never met on grass previously.
After the Italian bagged the opening set with a crucial break of serve in the 12th game, Wawrinka showed glimpses of his old self in the second and an early break saw him level the match at 1-1.
Sinner struggled with the sun in his face and also with the slippery conditions due to rain during the day but found his footing to cruise through the next two sets and seal the contest with his ninth ace.
"In the beginning it was tough, and with the sun also," he said. "But I'm very happy that, in the end, I played better, I served better. So hopefully it can give me confidence for the next round."
For a place in the third round, Sinner will play the winner of the match between Daniel Altmaier and Mikael Ymer with the latter leading 6-3 7-5 when bad light stopped play.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Ken Ferris)