LONDON – These are not the sorts of matches Maria Sharapova is supposed to lose, letting lead after lead slip away Tuesday against a qualifier ranked 132nd — and in the first round of Wimbledon, no less.
Then again, at this edition of The Championships, as they prefer to call the event around here, the initial 48 hours have provided more surprising exits than anyone’s accustomed to: Seven top-10 men’s and women’s seeds departed in the opening round, more than in any previous year in the professional era’s half-century.
That includes two-time champion and No. 8 seed Petra Kvitova, who was sent home by Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 a few hours before 2004 titlist Sharapova folded against Vitalia Diatchenko in a 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3), 6-4 loss she seemingly controlled time and again before dropping the last three games.
“Sometimes,” Sharapova said, “you put yourself in a better or winning position, and you don’t finish.”
A 15-month doping ban kept her out of the grass-court Grand Slam tournament in 2016, and an injury sidelined her a year ago. It looked as if it would be a pleasant, straightforward return when she went ahead by a set and a break at 5-2.
Sharapova then served for the match at 5-3, but faltered. After being pushed to a third set, Sharapova went up a break at 2-1. That edge disappeared right away. She went up another break at 4-3. That advantage, too, was given right back. Sharapova’s collapse eventually ended, perhaps fittingly, with her 11th double-fault.
How unlikely was this result?
Since losing the first two Grand Slam matches of her career as a teenager, Sharapova was 49-1 in openers at majors, 13-0 at Wimbledon.
She’s a former No. 1, now seeded 24th, who owns five Grand Slam titles.
And Diatchenko? Repeatedly sidetracked by injuries of one sort or another — “I think I will write a book after I finish playing,” Diatchenko joked about her health history — the 27-year-old Russian came into the day 0-2 at Wimbledon and 8-25 overall in main-draw matches at all tour-level events.
“Everybody,” Diatchenko said, “expects me to lose the match.”
Kvitova made a far more stunning first-round exit. The eighth-seeded Kvitova entered the tournament as one of the favorites despite having withdrawn ahead of the third round at Eastbourne last week with a right hamstring complaint.
“The nerves were there again,” Kvitova said. “I just tried to kind of fight with myself.”
After losing just one set on her way to the Wimbledon title a year ago, Garbine Muguruza picked up exactly where she left off, beating British wild card Naomi Broady 6-2, 7-5 on Tuesday.
The top-seeded Simona Halep, playing her first match since winning the French Open, recorded a comfortable 6-2, 6-4 win over Japan’s Kurumi Nara.
There were also surprise defeats on the men’s side of the draw as both David Goffin and Dominic Thiem lost.
The 51st-ranked Matthew Ebden upset 10th-seeded Goffin of Belgium 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, before seventh-seeded Thiem retired hurt with his opponent, Marcos Baghdatis, leading 6-4, 7-5, 2-0. American Jack Sock, seeded 18th, was up by two sets but still lost 6-7 (5), 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 to Matteo Berrettini.
There were no such difficulties for former champions Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who both won in straight sets. Nadal moved into the second round with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win over Dudi Sela while Djokovic eased past Tennys Sandgren of the United States 6-3, 6-1, 6-2.