Wimbledon 2018 has seen some huge upsets in the early rounds. Nearly half of the seeded players in both singles draws are out before the first weekend. In terms of legitimate pre-event title contenders, three women and one man were bit hardest by the upset bug.
There will be plenty of time to talk and write about the players who make a run deep into the second week of Wimbledon, there always is. For now though, the more fascinating story is where the biggest upset victims go from here.
Kvitová has struggled to find consistency throughout her career. It looked like the struggle was over in 2018. The powerful lefty had racked up five tournament wins on the year heading into Wimbledon.
The Czech’s only two major triumphs have come at the All England Club. It made perfect sense for her to be the odds maker’s favorite. However, she lost her opening match 6-0 in the third set to Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus.
Sasnovich is a solid player, but there was no reason to think the eighth seed would be in any sort of trouble. As strange as it sounds, Kvitová seemed to melt in the heat at Wimbledon. That might be the first time a sentence like that has ever been written. Heat and Wimbledon have never gone together until this year.
After falling out of the top 20 last year due to recovery from stab wounds, Kvitová winning five titles this year has been a cool thing to watch. However, she has won just two total matches at the three Grand Slams played. A Grand Slam champion like her would probably trade the five championship trophies from tour event this year for deep runs at the majors. It is those events that make up the vast majority of how players are evaluated by the media and fans.
Kvitová has also struggled with asthma throughout her career. The heat at Wimbledon is nothing compared to what the players deal with throughout the remainder of the summer on the North American hardcourts.
Unsurprisingly, the upcoming stretch on the calendar has never been particularly kind to the former Olympic bronze medalist. She has always been a step or two behind her peers in terms of conditioning. Asthma no doubt plays a role in this. Kvitová has to be the most disappointed player leaving Wimbledon earlier than expected. Partly because she knows she can win there, but she also knows she faces an uphill battle to win matches from now until the tour heads to Asia in the fall.
Sometimes sports simply defy explanation. Čilić dominated Argentinian lefty Guido Pella for the first two sets of their second-round match. Rain halted play in the third set on Wednesday evening.
When the players returned early Thursday, Čilić’s normally lethal serve and forehand began misfiring at a level we have not seen in many years from him. At the same time, his 28-year-old opponent started doing everything a little bit better than he had been the day before. Before long, the reigning Wimbledon finalist and Queens Club champion was out of the tournament in five sets.
This was one of the more dramatic turnarounds you will ever see on a tennis court. Čilić had been playing possibly the best tennis of his career heading into Wimbledon. Pella had never won a main draw match at Wimbledon prior to this year. Čilić has been consistent enough over the last year or so to earn the benefit of the doubt as we head to North America. While extremely disappointing, there is nothing to suggest this loss was anything more than a bad day at the office.
The 2004 Wimbledon champion was very vocal about how eager she was to return to the venue that launched her career into the stratosphere. Sharapova had not played at Wimbledon in three years due to injuries and a suspension.
The 24th seed appeared to be on her way to a trademark opening round win. As usual, Sharapova was not playing her best but grinded her way to a 7-6 5-2 lead. From there, she completely unraveled. Once that started to happen, Russian qualifier relaxed and started to outhit her more accomplished countrywoman. Sharapova’s numerous double faults and unforced errors late in the final set proved to be her undoing. Diatchenko won the match 6-4 in the third set on a Sharapova double fault.
Diatchenko continues to enjoy the tournament of her life. Meanwhile, with three runs to the quarterfinals or better of clay court events, Sharapova had spent the last two months doing a really nice job of silencing the whispers that she is not the same player without Meldonium (the drug she was suspended for using). Right or wrong, those whispers have returned thanks to this loss. It is nearly impossible to predict Sharapova’s on-court fortunes for the remainder of the summer, but the stakes are high. The only thing anyone who has objectively followed her career can say for sure is that she will keep grinding. Also, she absolutely needs to do just that because the tour is a whole lot deeper than when she was forced to the sidelines a little over two years ago.
There will be a new ladies’ champion at Wimbledon this year. Last year’s winner Garbiñe Muguruza bowed out in the second round to Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium. Van Uytvanck played extremely well in the last two sets. However, Muguruza’s inconsistency is well documented. She has just six career titles, two are majors she came out of nowhere to win. It is becoming increasingly obvious that this is simply the kind of career the Spaniard is going to have. She is good for one or two big results a year, followed by a bunch of head-scratchers. This year’s Wimbledon definitely falls into the second category. Based on her career patterns, expect her to do some damage in North America for at least one tournament.