Wimbledon 2018: Former champions Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova suffer shock exit; Simona Halep advance into second round
Former champion Maria Sharapova struggling to reaffirm her dominance a year after returning from a doping ban, succumbed to her first ever opening round defeat at Wimbledon, going down 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 to fellow Russian and world number 132 Vitalia Diatcheno.
It was the same for another former champion Petra Kvitova, who was stunned 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 by Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus.
Sharapova was one game away from victory when she led by a set and 5-2 against the 27-year-old. But the 2004 champion soon lost plot and allowed Diatchenko to bounce back into the match leading to the decider and although Sharapova led 4-3 in the decider with a break, Diatchenko broke forward at 5-4 and an eighth double-fault completed Sharapova’s misery.
Diatchenko, who had until now exited from the opening round itself at the All England Club, will face Sofia Kenin of the United States for a place in the last 32.
Kvitova, who like Sharapova was making a return at the grass court after undergoing four hours of career-saving surgery to her dominate left hand, looked sluggish in her game and was let down by her over aggressiveness.
A pre-tournament favourite, Kvitova had already won five titles coming to Wimbledon and her grass-court game looked in perfect shape after she won the title in Edgbaston last monrh.
However, her movements against the 50th ranked Sasnovich were lethargic and Kvitova stood with no chance against the 24-year-old, who varied her strokes, mixing in some clever drop shots with some pounding ground strokes, and rarely showed any signs of nerves.
Simona Halep begins with a win
Meanwhile, world No. 1, Simona Halep, playing her first match since winning her first Grand Slam title at the French Open in June, continued the same form needing only 78 minutes to beat Japan’s Kurumi Nara 6-2, 6-4.
Halep who reached the semi-finals in 2014, was beaten by Johanna Konta in last year’s quarter-final.
It was the Japanese who started well making the top seed work harder than expected, but Halep soon wrestled her way back to control the proceedings, her forehands proving too powerful for Kurumi to handle.