Kerber, Cilic, et al: What happened to these Wimbledon contenders?

Kerber, Cilic, et al: What happened to these Wimbledon contenders?

Bigger things were expected from a number of highly ranked players at the All England Club.

In last year's Wimbledon men's semifinal, Kevin Anderson topped his college rival John Isner 26-24 in the fifth set to reach the second Grand Slam final of his career.

Heading into this year's tournament, both men were hard-pressed to replicate their performances, as they had played only two matches between them since April due to injuries. That lack of on-court time showed, as they both fell in the early rounds.

But what about other players that were expected to make an impact at the 2019 edition of arguably the most prestigious Grand Slam of them all? 

Many players that have made multiple appearances in the second week of Wimbledon fell earlier than expected this year. Here’s a look at several of them.

Angelique Kerber

The 2019 season, thus far, has shown some similarities to the German’s 2017 campaign, when she was the defending champion at two majors but otherwise struggled. She rebounded from that slump-ridden year in 2018, winning Wimbledon and mounting a charge toward the No. 1 ranking. This year, though, while having what might be considered a solid season, she has yet to win a title. After a first-round loss at the French Open, the former world No. 1 had a strong run through the grass-court warm-ups, culminating with a final-round loss in Eastbourne.

But any momentum was quickly erased at the All England Club, as Kerber lost to unseeded American Lauren Davis in the second round. Now, Kerber will turn her attention to this summer’s hard-court tournaments and compete on what is arguably her best surface.

Feliciano Lopez

Over the past several seasons, the Spaniard has been at his best on the grass. He’s routinely worked his way deep into the draw at the Wimbledon warm-up events, and has three quarterfinal appearances at the big show. Entering this year’s edition of the Queen’s Club tournament in London as a wild card, the 37-year-old captured the singles title there for the second time—and added the doubles title to boot, alongside Andy Murray.

At Wimbledon, he breezed through his opening match before falling to the 10th seed Karen Khachanov in four sets. Khachanov advanced to the fourth round at the tournament last year, but this could have been seen as a winnable match for the Spaniard, and he was in a section of the draw that his compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut went through to reach the semifinals. Opportunity lost.

Garbine Muguruza

Muguruza's Grand Slam-winning accomplishments of the recent past are being forgotten with her play over the last two years. Injuries and poor form have both played a major role in the former world No. 1’s slide down the rankings; No. 1 less than two years ago, she's currently No. 28.

Despite her slump, Muguruza—by virtue of winning Wimbledon in 2017 and reaching the final in 2015—was considered for a place among the favorites at this year’s tournament. Instead, she lost in the opening round to Beatriz Haddad Maia, making this the second year in a row that she didn’t make it to the second week. Shortly after the loss, the Spaniard announced that she was splitting from her longtime coach, Sam Sumyk, in an effort to right the ship.

Karolina Pliskova

Before each of the three Grand Slams this year, Pliskova has won a warm-up event, strengthening the idea that her major breakthrough is imminent. A surprise fourth-round loss to her countrywoman Karolina Muchova at Wimbledon—13-11 in the third—this year kept her out of the winners’ circle once again.

Among the biggest hitters in the game, Pliskova is considered a contender at any tournament she enters, regardless of the surface. However, despite reaching the top spot in the rankings in her career and winning multiple singles titles, she’s been unable to replicate her feat of reaching the final of the 2016 US Open. That’s the next major around the corner, and once again, she’ll be on many short lists to win the title. Living up to that status and not letting the weight of arguably being the best player without a Slam get to her will be key for the Czech.

Marin Cilic

From 2014 to 2016, Cilic reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon each year, setting the stage for a breakthrough in 2017, when he advanced to the final. With that kind of history at the tournament, as well as success on grass at other events, the Croat usually places among the front-runners for the title.

But this year, Cilic's season-long slump continued into Wimbledon. Joao Sousa, who entered their second-round match with a 2-5 record at Wimbledon, stopped Cilic in straight sets. In the midst of his longest title drought in more than a decade, Cilic will look to get back on track on hard courts, with the US Open right around the corner.