Both the Women’s and Men’s draw offer interesting insight into the complexity of sports. Not necessarily tennis, but all sports. We have seen the greatest tennis players of this generation being eliminated before the quarterfinals of the 2013 Wimbledon. The list has just been growing, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Roger Federer, and yesterday Serena Williams. This tournament has been a testament to the idea that any athlete can beat any other athlete on any given day.
During this wild tournament, players outside the top 100 have been able to defeat Nadal and Federer, definitively the two greatest players of the 21st century. We have seen upsets in the world of sports, but quite frankly this might just outdo all of them. Some consider the greatest moment in sports, the epic dethroning of the Soviet Union Hockey Team by Team U.S.A. during the gold medal round of the 1980 Olympics, dubbed “The Miracle on Ice.” But, I believe these Wimbledon upsets when “combined” equal a far greater total upset. Now a “combination” is defined on my own terms as simply an amalgamation of all of these upsets, which equals the overall upset of the tournament.
Rafael Nadal has never lost in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament. What was particularly shocking about this loss was that Steve Darcis disposed of Nadal in straight sets. Obviously, there was an issue with a lingering injury that Nadal had to deal with, but still. Defeating Nadal will be the pinnacle of Darcis’ career, who is ranked 135 in the world and came into Wimbledon unseeded. He is the lowest ranked player to ever eliminate Nadal from any tournament ever.
Maria Sharapova was eliminated in straight sets by a 131st ranked 20 year old player named Michelle Larcher de Brito. Sharapova attributed this loss to a hip injury. Last year, she was highly successful on the tour, attaining the #1 ranking in the world. Just last Grand Slam, this year’s French Open, she reached the finals but lost to her biggest rival, Serena Williams. I don’t consider this to be a terrible defeat for Sharapova considering she had consistency issues in the past. She didn’t win a Grand Slam for four years between 2008 and 2012. Nevertheless, one of the most respected women on the tour fell to the hands of a barely 20 year old from Portugal.
In my opinion, Federer’s second round exit is the biggest upset of the tournament. He had the longest consecutive appearances in Grand Slam quarterfinals in tennis history with 36. This consistency that Federer is noted for evaporated in hours when 116th ranked Serhiy Stakhovsky eliminated Federer from Wimbledon, Federer’s most successful tournament, in four sets. To put this in perspective, Federer hadn’t lost a match in a Grand Slam before the quarterfinals since the 2003 French Open. But a player ended that streak, a player 113 ranks below him.
Serena Williams, the current #1, reigning French Open champ, reigning Wimbledon champ, and the reigning US Open champ lost to Germany’s Sabine Lisicki. She lost in three sets to a 24th ranked player. Though, Lisicki is more respectable and established within the sport than the victors in the other matches I’ve mentioned, she ended one of the most dominant displays of tennis in WTA history. This ended the best winning streak of Serena’s career, 34 consecutive matches. It is one shy of her sister’s streak of 35, which she set in 2000 and is a record since the turn of the 21st century.
In both the Men’s and Women’s draws, there remains a sole American left in the quarterfinals. Sloane Stephens, a 20 year old who has elevated her game to new heights in the last year, has reached the quarters. She reached the semifinals of this year’s Australian Open as a 19 year old. Stephens has had some trouble getting into the quarters of Wimbledon though. She had to endure three set matches in the last three rounds. I don’t believe that she can beat a higher ranked Marion Bartoli in the quarters to advance to the semi’s because of the length of her previous three matches. But, tennis critics call her America’s future in the sport after Serena Williams dominance comes to an end.
Only two of the Big Four in Men’s tennis remain. The original two members have been eliminated before the third round. And the one who’s usually thought of as the last leg, Andy Murray looks the strongest in the tournament thus far. He has had a chip on his shoulder from the time he turned professional. He was supposed to be British tennis’ savior. A British man has not won Wimbledon in 77 years, when Fred Perry won it back in 1936. Although he has finally broke through at a Grand Slam with last year’s US Open, a Wimbledon title has been at the front of his mind for the last five years. Nadal, Federer, and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, ranked #6, were all on Murray’s side of the bracket. With all of them gone, this is his best chance to win the elusive Wimbledon. Since Murray is seeded #2, he’ll likely go to the finals and face Novak Djokovic, which will make for an exciting Wimbledon finals match.
From 2004-2010, Nadal and Federer won 24 of the 28 Grand Slams. This is sheer domination in the sport. Nadal will easily go down as a top 10 player in tennis history, maybe even better, and the greatest of all time on clay. Federer will go down as the greatest ever in the sport. Are all of these upsets a coincidence or signaling an end of an era that was dominated completely by these great players? If it is a coincidence, then the idea that any given athlete can beat any other athlete on any given day is true. If it is the end of an era, then it will be one that will go down as arguably the greatest in the history of the sport and one that will surely be missed by all tennis fans including myself.
All Statistics and Pictures courtesy of ESPN