LONDON: Maria Sharapova suffered her first opening round Wimbledon defeat and earliest Grand Slam exit in eight years on Tuesday when she was shocked by fellow Russian Vitalia Diatchenko, the world number 132.
Sharapova, the 2004 champion, was joined at the exit by 2011 and 2014 winner Petra Kvitova who was stunned by Belarusian world number 50 Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
Sharapova was cruising to victory at one stage on Court Two with a set and 5-2 lead before qualifier Diatchenko shrugged off a back injury to win 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 after more than three hours of tense action.
Sharapova, playing Wimbledon for the first time in three years after missing 2016 through a drugs ban and 2017 due to injury, gave up the match on her 11th double fault.
It was her earliest exit at a Slam since a first round defeat at the 2010 Australian Open.
“It’s always tough to assess your motivation levels after a first round loss but I won’t shy away from learning from my errors,” said 31-year-old Sharapova.
Eighth seed Kvitova was the bookmakers’ favourite for a third Wimbledon crown after winning five titles in 2018, including the grass-court tournament at Birmingham last weekend, while amassing an WTA Tour-leading 38 match victories.
But she slumped to a disappointing 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 loss to Sasnovich.
“When I was younger, I played better on the Grand Slams than the other tournaments. Now is the time when I’m playing better on the other tournaments than the Grand Slams,” said the 28-year-old Czech.
Kvitova is the fourth top 10 women’s seed to lose in the first round.
Number four Sloane Stephens and fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina were eliminated on Monday.
France’s Caroline Garcia, seeded six, was also beaten Tuesday, going down 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 to Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic.
Nadal, Djokovic through
World number one Nadal breezed into the second round with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win over Israel’s Dudi Sela as the Spaniard returned to action for the first time since claiming his 11th French Open title.
Nadal, the Wimbledon champion in 2008 and 2010, also managed to avoid falling victim to a player ranked outside the world top 100 for what would have been the fifth time in his last six visits to the All England Club.
“I’m just happy to be through of course and yes, this match gives me positive feelings,” said Nadal after seeing off world number 127 Sela.
Nadal, the 17-time major winner, has not got past the fourth round since finishing runner-up to Novak Djokovic in 2011.
Djokovic reached the second round with a 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 win over Tennys Sandgren of the United States.
Djokovic, seeded 12, was back at the tournament where last year he was forced to retire from his quarter-final against Tomas Berdych with an elbow injury.
“I thought it was overall quite a solid match. I think he made a lot of errors,” said Djokovic.
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