Maria Sharapova cut a bemused and downcast figure at Wimbledon on Thursday as her entire grass court campaign ended after just two matches.
The Russian superstar, who for the first time in five years chose earlier this month not to compete at the DFS Classic in Birmingham, was defeated in straight sets by world No 154 Alla Kudryavtseva and gave one of her poorest ever performances on her favourite surface. So poor in fact she was at a loss to explain why her assault on the All England title lasted just one round.
“I guess it wasn’t my day,” was the extent of Sharapova’s tactical and technical insight. “She just did everything better than I did. She went for her shots, I was tentative.” Not terribly enlightening but a very fair assessment.
The No?3 seed was simply never in the match and even though she managed to retain an interest in the first set on serve until the sixth game, she was broken in consecutive service games and never looked capable of a comeback.
The double faults and the unforced errors mounted, her compatriot’s confidence burgeoned and even though the favourite broke in the first game of the next set and moved into a 2-0 lead nothing was right with her game.
Two-all became 4-2 and as Sharapova served to stay in the championship she needed a correct challenge on the baseline to survive another crucial break.
“At least that was one game I didn’t lose,” she sulked afterwards. “A loss is a loss. It’s part of my job. There’s only one winner in the tournament and everybody else is disappointed. I’m one of them.”
While the result of this match will slip from Sharapova’s memory, the unheralded 20-year-old will remember the day for the rest of her life and if she can recapture the depth and power on her forehand against Shuai Peng she has a better than average chance of making it as far as the quarter finals where she could face No?5 seed, and grass-o-phobe, Elena Dementieva.
“Obviously I wasn’t confident about winning, not even close to confident. But I thought I at least had to go for it.” That philosophy was never more true than on match point when Sharapova ushered her opponent on to the forehand side. What followed was the sort of fizzing cross court winner that Sharapova has made her trademark. Fire not just matched but defeated fire.
Kudryavtseva could do nothing wrong, in fact she felt so full of herself that after that match she was able to offer her victim some fashion advice.
“It’s very pleasant to beat Maria. Why? I don’t like her outfit. I liked her outfit at the French Open but it’s a little too much of the same thing,” she said in reference to Sharapova’s focus on how she looks on court. “She experiments, sometimes she has good ones, sometimes not.”
Andy Murray, meanwhile, had no such problems in moving into the third round and booking a match-up with Tommy Haas. The Scot picked up where he left off against Fabrice Santoro in the first round by beating Xavier Malisse 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
The 21-year-old gave another glimpse of the new-found serving power he unveiled in round one and a first serve percentage of 67, some of which were delivered at more than 130 mph, showed his delivery gives him the firepower to worry Haas and perhaps opponents in the second week.
His compatriot Chris Eaton, however, saw his dream end when he was shredded by The Tursunator, Dmitry Tursunov.
The world No?661 could not recreate the pyrotechnics on serve that took him through qualifying and past Boris Pashanski in the first round.
Tursunov, another Russian won the first set on a tie break but then eased to a 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory, which leaves Murray as the only Briton in either the men’s or women’s draw following Anne Keothavong’s epic – but unsuccessful, challenge to Venus Williams.
Rafael Nadal survived a first set scare against Ernests Gulbis and went through in four and Richard Gasquet, who could be Murray’s opponent in the fourth round, beat Sebastien Grosjean.
Former DFS Classic champion Jelena Jankovic went through in straight sets while another, Vera Zvonareva, went out.