LONDON (CNN) – There was a double shock at Wimbledon on Tuesday, as Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova were upset by a qualifier and player who had lost her last five matches on grass, respectively.
Sharapova blew a huge lead and was bundled out by 132nd-ranked Vitalia Diatchenko 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 as the light faded. Kvitova exited hours earlier in warm sunshine against 50th-ranked Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-4 4-6 6-0.
Even though Sharapova pulled out of a Wimbledon warmup in Birmingham last month, citing the need to “take care” of her body, few could have predicted that the 2004 champion would be departing Tuesday to her Russian compatriot.
Sharapova had never lost in the first round in 13 previous Wimbledons, while the free swinging Diatchenko had never won a main draw match on grass in the top tier. Furthermore, the 27-year-old Diatchenko — beset by shoulder, Achilles and knee injuries in her career — had only ever beaten a top 50 player once before in 2014.
Making her return to Wimbledon after a drug suspension ruled her out in 2016 and an injury led to a qualifying withdrawal last year, Sharapova looked on course for victory with a set and 5-2 advantage. Then, in the third set, the five-time grand slam winner was up by a break at 4-3.
But, as was the case at the French Open, Sharapova had trouble holding on to the lead, and this time paid the price.
“I definitely had several chances in the match. Although not playing my best tennis, I opened up a few doors and was a couple points away from winning this match,” Sharapova told reporters. “But, sometimes you put yourself in a better or winning position, and you don’t finish through. That was the case today.”
The 24th seed was still adamant that she was in a better place than 12 months ago, when the 31-year-old was ranked 180th. “I’ve certainly made a lot of progress despite this result today,” Sharapova said. “I’ve made a lot of progress in the last few months. I find myself in a much better position than at this time last year.”
Kvitova might feel the same. Last year, Wimbledon marked Kvitova’s third tournament back after she was attacked in her home and needed surgery on her left, playing hand to save her career. The hand is still not 100 percent, and probably will never be, according to the 28-year-old star.
Yet, for now, she is bound to be bitterly disappointed.
Kvitova owns two Wimbledon titles, and many thought that the Czech would add to her haul in just under two weeks given that she has tallied the most wins on the women’s circuit in 2018 and collected five titles, including one in Birmingham just over a week ago.
Indeed, Kvitova has mostly sparkled this year in what has been a stunning turnaround — except at the majors. Her opening reverse at the All England Club — the last time Kvitova fell in the first round came in 2009 — followed a first-round defeat at the Australian Open in January and third-round loss at the French Open last month.
Kvitova told reporters on the eve of Wimbledon that she struggled to play relaxed during the grand slams this year, wanting success “too much.” That was a factor on Tuesday, she admitted. “Probably I wanted too much again,” she told reporters. “I just made a joke that probably I’m going to skip the grand slams for the next years.”
“When I was kind of younger, I played better in the grand slams than the other tournaments. Now is the time when I’m playing better on the other tournaments than the grand slams. So, I make a promise that I’m going to be very patient and I’m going to try to break it again for the other side,” Kvitova said. “It’s just not really working for me right now.”
Sasnovich — a bubbly Belorussian — began the season in impressive fashion, making a final in Brisbane. But, since then, her record was only 10-13, and Sasnovich had not won on grass since last year. Maybe Sasnovich likes playing against Czech opposition, since both of her top 10 victories have come against Czech players.
“It was a good match, but I can play better,” said Sasnovich.
(© Copyright 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)