Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova has suffered the earliest loss of her celebrated Wimbledon career, upset in three marathon sets by Russian qualifier Vitalia Diatchenko in Tuesday’s dramatic final act of the opening round.
Sharapova has waited almost three years to win a match on grass and, despite leading the double-handed but single-minded Diatchenko by a set and 5-2 on her return to the All England Club, the 31-year-old will now need to wait at least 11 months more.
An 11th double fault on match point ensured Sharapova would join Petra Kvitova, the pre-Championships favourite and another of the five past titleholders in the draw, in the exit queue. The 6-7(3), 7-6(3), 6-3 defeat is the first opening round loss in 14 Wimbledon campaigns for Sharapova, the ladies' singles champion of 2004 and the runner-up in 2011.
When Aliaksandra Sasnovich heard she would be playing two-time winner Petra Kvitova in the first round, she went straight to work.
“I just go on court and I practised,” the world No.50 told a small group of reporters after stunning the Czech title favourite 6-4, 4-6, 6-0.
“I knew what I needed to do on the court, and I just went for the win,” the Belarusian said. “To play my tennis, and to win.”
Sasnovich prepared for her first career match against Kvitova for four days, training with a British sparring partner called Mike.
“I practised with a lefty hitting partner, I want to say thanks to Mike,” said Sasnovich, before adding: “I don’t know his last name.”
Sasnovich credited her new coach, Alex Leniuchev, with boosting her confidence this season.
“He really helped me to improve my mentality,” she said. “I want to improve and improve, because I think I have a good potential.”
“I am happy,” she said. “I am in a good mood, and he gave me positive energy. It’s most important to be positive, not negative.”
Despite first round losses on the grass courts of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, and Mallorca, Spain, Sasnovich always believed she had a shot against Kvitova.
“I played against the two-time champion, and I just go on the court and I showed all my tennis, all my mental preparation, all my concentration, I gave everything on court,” she said.
A Gutsy performance from both sides