My generation of tennis fans was already incredibly lucky to grow up watching two of the best tennis players of all time, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, in their prime years.
It was upsets galore on the third day of the 2013 Wimbledon Championships as a tsunami of upsets claimed seven seeded players, all of which have been World No. 1 at various stages in their careers, and three of which have saluted a collective ten times at the All England Club, in contrastingly bizarre circumstances.
The day started less than ideal with dual Australian Open champion and former World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka withdrawing from her scheduled second round match against Flavia Pennetta due to a sickening knee injury she suffered during her first round victory over Maria Joao Koehler.
Azarenka’s withdrawal ended a streak of four consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals, dating back to Wimbledon last year, and marks her earliest defeat at a Grand Slam tournament since the 2010 US Open, and earliest at Wimbledon since her debut in 2006.
Subsequently, Ana Ivanovic’s match against 2012 junior champion Eugenie Bouchard was to be relocated to Centre Court from Court 12.
In the second biggest surprise of the tournament, the former World No. 1 was upset by the Canadian in straight sets, in the process suffering her sixth defeat from eight matches on Wimbledon’s Centre Court and suffering her earliest exit at a Grand Slam tournament under Nigel Sears (prior to this, Ivanovic had averaged the fourth round in seven Grand Slam tournaments).
This also marks the 20th time in 21 tournaments in which the Serbian has failed to reach the quarter-finals of any Grand Slam event since triumphing in Paris five years ago. And if it wasn’t for Irina-Camelia Begu at last year’s US Open, it could have been so much worse.
And it didn’t end there. Two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist and former Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga became the next victim of the injury curse, retiring at the start of the fourth set against Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis down two sets to one due to a knee injury.
The Frenchman appeared in good shape, having reached the semi-finals of the Queen’s Club Championships, where he pushed eventual winner Andy Murray to three sets before capitulating, and the French Open, where he lost to David Ferrer in straight sets.
And finally, the biggest surprise of them all – the upset defeat of Roger Federer at the hands of unheralded Ukranian Serhiy Stakhovsky.
The four-set defeat sentenced the great Swiss to his earliest defeat at a Grand Slam tournament since the 2004 French Open, thus ensuring he won’t mark the 10th anniversary of his first Grand Slam title with a record eighth title at the All England Club.
Federer’s second round exit marks the worst collective performance at a Grand Slam by the great Swiss and Rafael Nadal since the latter made his Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon in 2003, and also marks the worst performance by a defending champion at any Grand Slam since Juan Carlos Ferrero crashed out in the second round of the 2004 French Open.
The last time neither Federer or Nadal reached the quarter-finals at a Grand Slam tournament, in which both men were in the draw, was at the 2003 US Open.
More upsets, and withdrawals, occurred on what is now known as “Black Wednesday”.
Apart from Victoria Azarenka, Marin Cilic and Steve Darcis were some of the other pre-match victims.
Cilic, who won the 2012 Queen’s Club Championships when David Nalbandian was controversially disqualified for kicking a line judge in the leg during the match, was forced out before his match against Kenny de Scheeper due to a left knee injury, whilst Darcis, the conqueror of Rafael Nadal, gave Lukasz Kubot a walkover into the last 32 by withdrawing due to a shoulder injury.
Before the carnage of upsets started among the seeds, 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt was dumped out in four sets by German qualifier Dustin Brown, whilst marathon man John Isner, best known for defeating Nicolas Mahut in a three-day match in which the final set lasted 70-68, had to retire three games into his match against Adrian Mannarino.
These preceded the dismissals of 2004 champion Maria Sharapova, who was out-grunted by Michelle Larcher de Brito, along with former World No. 1s Caroline Wozniacki (straight sets loser to Petra Cetkovska) and Jelena Jankovic (to compatriot Vesna Dolonc).
For Sharapova, this is her first defeat to anyone other than Serena Williams since the Australian Open, when she lost to Li Na in the semi-finals, and earliest exit from a Grand Slam tournament since Wimbledon in 2009, whilst for Wozniacki her career continues to further spiral out of control, having now gone six consecutive Grand Slam tournaments without reaching the quarter-finals.
Both slipped several times during their respective losses, including Sharapova pre-match.
Collectively, the highest profile casualties – Federer, Hewitt, Azarenka, Sharapova, Wozniacki, Ivanovic and Jankovic – have won 26 Grand Slam titles out of a possible 44 finals appearances (including three finals against each other, in the case of Federer-Hewitt, Sharapova-Ivanovic and Azarenka-Sharapova), and have spent more than 550 weeks (roughly ten-and-a-half years) at World No. 1.
Throw into that the shock first-round departure of Rafael Nadal and this statistic increases to 38 titles from 49 finals and 652 weeks at World No. 1.
Of the twelve seeds that fell on Day Three, only the Serbian pair of Ivanovic and Jankovic did not suffer any genuine injuries, so realistically there is no excuse for their demises. They will be hoping that the upcoming US Open series brings back some much needed luck.
Andy Murray and Petra Kvitova were among the winners on what was the worst collective collapse of seeds at a Grand Slam tournament in modern history.
Murray eased past Taiwan’s Lu Ysen-hun in straight sets, to set up a third round tie against Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo, whilst Kvitova, the 2011 champion, received a walkover into Round 3 when Yaroslava Shvedova pulled out due to injury.
The wave of massive upsets will have some ramifications on the remainder of the Wimbledon draw.
Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams are now the only active former champions still alive in the draw, and one would think that they will now be the favourites to take out the titles.
Tomas Berdych and Andy Murray are the only two active men to have reached the final at the All England Club. Berdych, the 2010 finalist who knocked Federer and Djokovic out en route, could face the Serbian in the quarter-finals should be get that far.
Murray, on the other hand, will now be odds-on favourite to reach the final following the departures of Federer and Nadal. It seems that there is no one left to stop him from reaching a fourth consecutive final on grass (third at Wimbledon including last year’s Gold Medal match at the Olympics).
One would also fancy his chances of finally becoming the first home-grown male winner of Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936. All of Great Britain will be holding their breath, though, to ensure he does not become the next victim of the tsunami which struck Day Three of the Championships.
The departures of the aforementioned seeded men will also guarantee five new Wimbledon quarter-finalists. Two from last year, Florian Mayer and Philipp Kohlschreiber, were eliminated in the first round.
Agnieszka Radwanska, Marion Bartoli and Kvitova are the only three active women, other than Williams, to have reached the final at SW19.
Any chances Radwanska has of repeating last year’s run to the final are very slim, as she would have to face Serena Williams, her conqueror in the title match last year, in the semi-finals.
Bartoli, the surprise finalist from 2007 who avoided the wave of upsets by defeating Christina McHale in straight sets overnight, could face Kvitova, the 2011 champion, in the semi-finals. The Frenchwoman won their only Grand Slam meeting at last year’s US Open and also defeated her in the Eastbourne final in 2011.
She would have been due to face Maria Sharapova in the fourth round but her chances of getting back some form and re-entering the Top 10 have suddenly been boosted, and it’s a chance that she will want to take with both hands.
At least three new Wimbledon quarter-finalists are guaranteed from the bottom half of the women’s draw. Section Five (Errani/Wozniacki) was already guaranteed to provide a new Wimbledon quarter-finalist.
I haven’t seen such a huge wave of upsets at a Grand Slam tournament in such a long time, in fact not since the 2008 Wimbledon Championships, when six out of a possible eight top four seeds from both the men’s and the women’s tournaments failed to make the quarter-finals.
In that year, third and fourth seeds Novak Djokovic and Nikolay Davydenko were gone before the end of the third day, whilst all the top four women’s seeds – Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova, were all sent packing progressively by a group of unknowns before the quarter-finals.
The demise of the top four women’s seeds that year was the worst performance by the top four seeds at any Grand Slam tournament in the Open Era.
From this group of unknowns, though, is Agnieszka Radwanska, the victor of Kuznetsova who now finds herself as a top four player in her own right and going about her own business as she seeks a Grand Slam breakthrough, being stuck behind the shadow of Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams.
Djokovic, Williams and Radwanska, along with former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych, 2011 French Open champion Li Na and our own Samantha Stosur, are some of the big names who will continue their Wimbledon campaigns tonight, Australian time. Can they avoid becoming caught in the tsunami of upsets?