This year's Wimbledon Tournament has been a spectacle of upset performances. Monday morning, the number one seeded Serena Williams suffered a surprise loss to twenty four seed Sabine Lisicki. She now joins Maria Sharapova, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal in the group of favored competitors who could not even survive the third round.
The shocking outcomes have been enough for NPR to declare "it's been a graveyard for top seeds at Wimbledon."
Last week, third-seeded, Maria Sharapova fell from the bracket in the second round. On the men's side, third-ranked Roger Federer was also knocked out in the second-round, and Rafael Nadals' 43-2 record this year couldn't guarantee him a second-round appearance.
"I just wasn't there," said Sharapova to the Los Angeles Times, after her early loss during the 2nd round on June 26. The third-ranked, four-time Slam tournament champion, Sharpova fell to the number 131 seed, Portugal's Michelle Larcher de Brito in just two sets, 6-3, 6-4.
Roger Federer, the defending Men's champion and third ranked seed followed suit. He fell to the 116th ranked Serily Stakhowsky 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5) in the second round of play. Like Sharapova, Federer could not explain his performance. "When I had the chance, I couldn't do it," he said.
Clearly disappointed, Federer said he's "Got to get over this one." although "some haven't hurt this much, that's for sure," he added.
Within the 8.5 hours that Sharapova and Federer were expelled from Wimbledon, six other players previously ranked number 1 suffered the same fate, including Caroline Wozniacki; Ana Ivanovic; Jelena Jankovic; Azarenka; and Lleyton Hewitt.
But the first-round elimination of Spanish superstar Nadal was arguably the greatest upset on the men's side of the Wimbledon bracket. The number five rank fell to number 135 Steve Darcis. “At the end, it’s not a tragedy ... That is sport,” said Nadal to the New York Times in response to the 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (10-8), 6-4 loss.
Following Federer's and Nadal's eliminations, Novak Djokivic is the favored winner; in fact, the three players have dominated the past 33 Grand Slam tournaments, combining for all but two titles.
Despite a week of untimely losses, Williams' performance this morning was the biggest shock of all. The Bleacher Report reported that Williams has been playing with "so much momentum and confidence right now that it's hard to see her stopping her domination anytime soon.” Other critics said Sharapova's elimination "virtually gives the women's title to Serena Williams, the defending champion."
But the 31-year-old defending champion and number one seed could not live up to her reputation. Her 34-match winning streak and recent French Open title did not make Williams invincible from Lisicki's winning performance. The German number 23 seed knocked Williams out of the tournament in three sets, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4.
Many critics may have unfairly overlooked Lasicki's potential. According to The Wall Street Journal, "she has beaten the reigning French Open champion in each of her last four appearances at Wimbledon." Fox Sports attributed Williams' loss to her mental and physical strength. No one beats Williams except for herself, they reported. She got flustered, even disinterested, and Lisicki was able to capitalize on the opportunity.
“I wasn’t willing or able,’’ Williams said after losing, "or probably didn’t even want to hold my serve today.’’
"When you’re playing and have absolutely nothing to lose ... you can play with so much freedom," Williams added about Lisicki's performance. Unfortunately, Williams had much more to lose.
“I think nobody gave me the slightest chance to win today,” Darcis said after defeating Nadal.
Darcis is correct, and this is perhaps the best explanation for these unprecedented upsets. Did Sharapova, Williams, Federer and Nadal simply underestimate the competition to the point that each was unprepared and then blown away? Granted that Nadal and Williams have been recovering from physical injuries, neither competitor has typically allowed an injury to stand in the way of victory.
As we look to the future, what is in store for the tennis world? Have these four giants stepped down from their pedestals, opening the doors for a new era of champions? My best guess is probably not. It was a strange year for Wimbledon, but we should expect comeback performances from all four performers in the tournaments to come, including the U.S. Open Tournament scheduled to begin on August 26.