Wimbledon Casualty Report: Day 1

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 /by
AP Photos
AP Photos

Every player has a story, only most first-round losers at Grand Slam events often don’t get to tell it. It’s because the first two rounds are so hectic, so loaded, that it’s easy to lose track. Hence this casualty report, which may even keep some of you from asking, a week or two hence, “Hey, how did (so-and-so) do at Wimbledon?”

Yesterday was once again a tough day to be Brit—Great Britain’s players went 2-6—or American (they went a slightly better 2-5). So let’s say a few words over the brackets of some of those who are no longer with us. This selection is representative, not comprehensive:

Sloane Stephens, ranked and seeded No. 18 at Wimbledon, was beaten by No. 109 Maria Kirilenko, who was ranked No. 10 in the world just a year ago. Plagued by shoulder and knee injuries, Kirilenko is on the comeback trail now—apparently with a vengeance.

“She's done well here in the past. I knew it was going to be tricky, but that's like every other Grand Slam first-round match,” Stephens said of the 6-2, 7-6 (6) loss.

Stephens fans might have been distressed by how philosophically she took this blow, but she’ll be the one who ultimately pays the price. This loss could drop her out of the Top 20 by the end of Wimbledon.

Kirilenko hit 27 winners to 25 by Stephens, and she made four fewer unforced errors (14 to 18) while putting 85 percent of her first serves into play. She moves on to play Peng Shuai.

*****

Garbine Muguruza, 20 years old and seeded No. 27, had a breakout French Open, and while she plays for Spain, she prefers surfaces faster than clay. That didn’t bother Coco Vandeweghe last week in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and it didn’t bother her yesterday at Wimbledon. Muguruza failed to effectively neutralize the big Vandeweghe serve again, as Vandeweghe won a tight one, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.

Vandeweghe, who won her first title at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, fired down 15 aces yesterday (to eight by Muguruza), and won 79 percent of her first-serve points. Vandeweghe will be the favorite in her next match against qualifier Tereza Smitkova (No. 175) of the Czech Republic. It will be a good test of her ability to perform under the pressure of expectations.

*****

Qualifier Ryan Harrison had high hopes going into his match with emerging star Grigor Dimitrov, winner at Queen’s Club two weeks ago and the No. 11 seed at Wimbledon. Harrison even promised ESPN commentator Brad Gilbert that he would break the 140 M.P.H. mark with a serve.

Harrison fell four M.P.H. short of his goal, but did beat Dimitrov’s best serve by a single mile per hour. It didn’t do Harrison much good, though, as he was outplayed and broken down, 7-6 (1), 6-3, 6-2. He made 31 unforced errors in the match and won just 38 percent of his second-serve points.

Dimitrov will face 20-year old Aussie Luke Saville, a surprise winner over Dominic Thiem (see below).

*****

Sam Stosur, ranked and seeded No. 17, has never reached the fourth round at Wimbledon, despite having a great serve (she struck 13 aces yesterday) and excellent hands for working around the net. She won’t get there this year either; she was beaten decisively by Yanina Wickmayer, 6-3, 6-4. 

The winner was not buoyed by the presence of her fellow countryman Kim Clijsters cheering her on. Stosur has lost at Wimbledon to the likes of Arantxa Rus, Melinda Czink, and Michaela Pastikova, so at least she can console herself with having lost to a name player. But this was Stosur’s sixth first-round loss at Wimbledon. And to think this baffling 30-year-old has beaten Serena Williams. In a Grand Slam event. For the championship.

The stats in this match were surprisingly close, but the big difference was Wickmayer’s ability to win 65 percent of the second serves she hit, while Stosur could convert only 35 percent. Wickmayer’s next opponent will be dangerous Croatian qualifier Ana Konjuh, a 16-year-old with a lot of upside.

*****

Johanna Konta was one of just two British women in action on Day 1, and the No. 96 ranked player lost a heartbreaker to China’s Peng Shuai, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

It’s easy to pooh-pooh or have fun with the idea of how much Wimbledon means to a British player, but put yourself in their shoes. The popularity of tennis in general may not be off-the-charts in the U.K., but Wimbledon is, so losing a close one there—especially a first-rounder—is a crushing blow. The whole kingdom is watching.

Give Konta credit: She attacked and kept attacking, even when Peng’s defenses were up. Konta was undone by unforced errors; she made 32 compared to her opponent’s 17.

Peng has been to the fourth round at Wimbledon twice, and she’ll face Kirilenko next. There’s no shame in this loss for the Sydney (Australia)-born Hungarian who plays for Great Britain (don’t ask, it’s complicated). No shame, just bittersweet “what ifs?”

*****

Fernando Verdasco, seeded No. 18, must still feel stunned by his loss to Marinko Matosevic, son of Branko Matosevic, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Matosevic, an Australian who was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, had gone a record 12 Grand Slam events without winning a single match until he broke that streak a few weeks ago at Roland Garros with a first-round win over Dustin Brown.

On that occasion, Matosevic rolled around for a while (really), reveling in the redemptive clay, as the reality of what he’d accomplished—or was it his upcoming laundry bill?—sank in. This time, there were no demonstrations, perhaps because grass stains are even tougher on white shorts than red clay.

Nothing on the stat sheet jumped out as a difference-maker in this match. It will remain a mystery, much like the origin of Stonehenge. Next up for the son of Branko: Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.

*****

Did Chris Evert really pick Donald Young as her longshot to win Wimbledon? Good for her if she did. Young, the much-maligned former prodigy, is still just 24. But he’s traveled a rocky road as a pro and needs all the support he can get, even if it won’t matter much at this Wimbledon anymore. He lost yesterday to Germany’s Benjamin Becker, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

This was a bit of bad luck for Young, for the 33-year-old Becker is having a final, glorious run—he was a finalist in ‘s-Hertogenbosch last week. Given that the men hit a like number of winners (35-33 in favor of Young), Young’s 31 unforced errors (to just 12 by Becker) were critical. The next test for Becker is No. 21 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov.

Footnote: Evert also picked Stosur, another first-round loser, as a threat to win the women’s title. Evert was the most conservative player of her generation, but she sure likes to let it roll with her picks!

*****

Does anyone else find it strange that there are two male Kuznetsovs from different nations competing at this Wimbledon—along with Svetlana Kuznetsova in the women’s draw? The men split yesterday: Qualifier Alex Kuznetsov, who plays for the U.S., felt gutted after losing an extra-time five setter, 9-7 in the fifth, to No. 16 seed Fabio Fognini. Andrey Kuznetsov (no relation) had better luck, partly because of a kind draw. He eliminated British wild card Daniel Evans without drama.

The USA’s Kuznetsov won the first two sets, 6-2, 6-1, but he let the demonstrative Fognini back into it in the third set, and the battle was joined. Fognini was the only man to claw his way back from a two-sets-to-none deficit on opening day, and his reward is another qualifier in the next round—Germany’s Tim Puetz.

*****

You have to feel for Alisa Kleybanova of Russia; her promising career was interrupted in 2011 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After a successful battle against the disease, she’s trying to regain the form that once carried her to the Top 20. She suffered a setback yesterday, as American Lauren Davis played a terrific match to advance, 6-2, 6-1.

The match lasted under an hour, but Kleybanova still found time to make 24 unforced errors—twice as many as her opponent. Another telling stat: Kleybanova put just 41 percent of her first serves into play. That allowed Davis to dictate.

Davis moves on to meet No. 12 seed Flavia Pennetta, who’s struggled lately. The Italian hasn’t strung together three wins since she shocked everyone with a win at Indian Wells.

*****

Fognini saved an otherwise dismal day for the Italian men, as No. 25 seed Andreas Seppi was beaten in a three-hour and 15-minute, five-set roller coaster ride by Leonardo Mayer, while Filippo Volandri fell in three straight, painless sets to Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France in a mere hour and 38 minutes.

Mayer gets Marcos Baghdatis next, while Roger-Vasselin must face 20th-seeded acemaker Kevin Anderson.

*****

Hungary’s Timea Babos got a first-round assignment that would make most players lick their chops: a British wild card for an opponent, Naomi Broady. Yes, the same Broady who was looking into changing careers (she considered becoming an au pair) just a year ago. But if there’s anything more humiliating than being a British wild card who gets crushed at Wimbledon, it’s being a player who loses to said wild card—and by a score of 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-0, no less.

Broady promised to buy herself a new handbag and some driving lessons with her prize-money; she’ll play either Shahar Peer or Caroline Wozniacki in her next match. She wins again and we’re talking Fendi bag, and maybe a nice, previously owned Porsche with low miles.

*****

Give 43-year-old (did I really just write that?) Kimiko Date-Krumm credit. The most extraordinary woman in the WTA took No. 22 seed Ekaterina Makarova through the wringer for two-and-a-half hours before she was beaten, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. I would send Sloane Stephens to sit at the feet of Date-Krumm to learn, but maybe that’s just me. Makarova next meets another Japanese, Misaki Doi, next. Payback time?

*****

Count veteran Vania King among the Americans who went down without putting up too much of a fuss. She lost to Austria’s Yvonne Meusburger, 7-5, 6-3. The winner put an outstanding 83 percent of her first serves into play and made just 15 unforced errors. Next up: No. 2 seed Li Na.

*****

Dominic Thiem is 20 years old, and so is Luke Saville. Thiem is from Austria, Saville is from Australia. Thiem looks a little like young Todd Martin, Saville looks like a young Johnny Rotten. Oh yes, Thiem is ranked No. 57 and considered one of the emerging bright lights of the ATP tour, while Saville is grubbing around, ranked No. 236.

Saville qualified for the main draw with an 8-6 in the fifth win over Yann Marti, then upset Thiem, 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. That’s why they play this game, right? Saville will play Dimitrov on Wednesday.

*****

Vasek Pospisil, seeded No. 31, turned 24 yesterday, and the Canadian’s present was elimination from Wimbledon, thanks to the steady hand of the Netherlands’ Robin Haase. It seems like just yesterday that Pospisil was threatening to give Milos Raonic a run for the bragging rights to Yellowknife, Trois-Rivières, and Nunavut, but Pospisil has been in a downward spiral lately. Haase, one of the more talented spoilers in the draw, will play Gilles Simon next. As with all the winners, he ought not to be asking for whom the bell tolls.


Large photos by Anita Aguilar; see more of her photography from Wimbledon here.

For complete Wimbledon coverage, including updated draws and reports from Steve Tignor, head to our tournament page.

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