The biggest stories to emerge from Wimbledon may have been the return of the superstars Novak Djokovic, who claimed his 13th Slam at Wimbledon, and Serena Williams, who made an astonishing run to the final less than a year after giving birth. But there was another thread running through the Championships. And that was upsets.
Throughout the first week, the seeds were sent tumbling down, and by the end of the fourth round, not one of the top ten seeds in the women’s draw was left standing. Things hardly went better for the men, with half of the 32 seeds knocked out of the tournament before the end of the third round. Indeed, Wimbledon this year provided one of the most unpredictable Grand Slams of the modern era. But which were the five biggest surprises?
5. Guido Pella defeats Marin Cilic 3-6 1-6 6-4 7-6 7-5
After making two excellent runs to Grand Slam finals in the last year, including at Wimbledon in 2017, and winning the title at Queen’s Club, much was expected of Croatia’s Marin Cilic. Instead, he bowed out in the second round after squandering a two-set lead against Argentina’s Guido Pella, losing 6-3 6-1 4-6 6-7 5-7 in a defeat that was amongst the most shocking upsets of the first week at the Championships. Particularly because Cilic had looked in such complete control.
He was in some ways unlucky, as just when Cilic seemed to be applying the finishing touches to the match on Wednesday evening, rain came. After a brief shower Cilic and Pella both elected to carry on, but the slippery conditions looked to be bothering the big man, and he went down a break to the Argentine. With more rain coming and darkness already enveloping the All England Club, the match was postponed until Thursday.
When it resumed on Thursday morning, the Argentine had found his composure and Cilic looked to have completely lost his. The serve and forehand combinations that had allowed him to hit through Pella with ease on Wednesday were instead bleeding errors and as the momentum swung Cilic’s shoulders dropped. By the decider it was Cilic who was hanging on, and despite saving match points in the tenth game, he let go in the twelfth to become, perhaps, an unfortunate victim of nature.
4. Ekaterina Makarova defeats Caroline Wozniacki 6-4 1-6 7-5
World #2 Caroline Wozniacki faced a testing time during her second round loss to Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, and it wasn’t just because of the quality of her opponent. Rather, the Australian Open champion also had to contend with a veritable horde of flying ants. Her discomfort was evident, and the Dane was eventually forced to request insect repellent, which she said was a first for her at the Championships.
But whatever success Wozniacki had in fending off the winged insects, she wasn’t able to replicate it against Makarova. Makarova made the better start, taking advantage of her affinity for grass court tennis and her skill in the forecourt to take the first set 6-4. Wozniacki fought back to level the match swiftly, but then made a terrible start to the decider to hand Makarova a 5-1 lead. She managed to get back on terms only to drop serve again and fall to a 4-6 6-1 5-7 defeat.
A defeat that was all the more frustrating for the good form she had shown coming into Wimbledon. Despite a disappointing fourth round exit at Roland Garros at the hands of 21-year-old rising star Daria Kasatkina in straight sets, 6-7 3-6, Wozniacki had looked sharp ahead of Wimbledon, particularly in winning her second Eastbourne title, defeating soon to be Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber en route in the semis. But in the end, it was to be yet more Wimbledon disappointment for Wozniacki.
3. Alison Van Uytvanck defeats Garbine Muguruza 5-7 6-1 6-2
After some thrilling upsets in the round of 64, defending champion Garbine Muguruza was doubtless hoping to avoid becoming another top seed to fall at the second hurdle. But she doubtless also knew that she was facing a stern test in the shape of Belgium’s world #47 Alison Van Uytvanck. She also had to contend with playing on Court 2, famously the ‘graveyard of champions’, and to make matters worse, the light was barely lingering by the time they stepped on to court.
If Muguruza’s mind wasn’t quite right in the match, it would certainly be understandable. The Spaniard unquestionably looked less confident in her game than she had in dispatching Naomi Broady in the first round on Centre Court. Muguruza’s game was notably more passive against Van Uytvanck, and despite impressively fighting back from a break down in the first set to take it, she wasn’t able to press on. Indeed, she managed just three games across the second and third sets.
As a result of her early loss Muguruza dropped to #7 in the WTA rankings. She seemed to struggle with the weight of expectation after her victory at the Championships last yearand became the earliest women’s defending champion to exit since Steffi Graf in 1994. Fortunately for Muguruza, she looked to be experiencing similar struggles last year after winning her first Slam at the French Open. And she managed to bounce back from that slump effectively enough.
2. Hsieh Su-wei defeats Halep 3-6 6-4 7-5
Fresh from her maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, and guaranteed to retain her #1 ranking following the early losses of Wozniacki and Muguruza, Simona Halep should have been ready to swing freely. She was certainly in a good position to better her run to the semifinals in 2014 and indeed looked to have every chance of doubling her Slam-haul. But her hopes of completing the Channel Slam were stunningly derailed by Hsieh Su-wei in the third round.
Halep took the first set against Hsieh and looked to be in control of their clash on Court 1. But Hsieh turned the match around in hugely impressive fashion, using a mixture of aggressive hitting from the baseline and impressive feel in and around the forecourt to unsettle the Romanian’s rhythm. It was a close-run thing for the Taiwanese nonetheless, with Halep at one point leading 5-2 in the decider. But Hsieh’s belief never failed her and she ultimately completed a memorable 3-6 6-4 7-5 victory.
1. Kevin Anderson defeats Roger Federer 2-6 6-7 7-5 6-4 13-11
A place in the semifinals looked to be within Roger Federer’s grasp when he forced a match point on the Kevin Anderson serve up 5-4 in the third set. The big South African had battled valiantly up to that point, but had been outclassed in the first and out-thought in the second, which he lost narrowly on a tiebreak. Even when the combination of a big serve and a big forehand saved the match point, it still seemed like it would be just a matter of time before Federer sealed the win.
But Anderson kept believing, keeping to a mantra that he would not be outfought by the great Swiss. With that guiding principle, he began to turn the match around. It started with a break of the Federer serve in the eleventh game of the third set before Anderson survived some concerted pressure to hold serve and take the match to a fourth set. He got another break midway through it and again held off Federer to level the match.
In the fifth set, Anderson played nerveless tennis. It was Federer who was receiving the lion’s share of the crowd’s support, as he almost always does, and more than once he threatened the surely decisive break. But again and again the power of Anderson defied him, and as the match ticked over into a fifth hour, the 36-year-old Federer began to look every inch the elder statesman he is. By his own admission, fatigue was a problem, and Anderson took full advantage.
He broke the Federer serve, helped by a double fault from the top seed, in the 22nd game of the set, and served it out impressive to take the win and hand a weary Federer a first loss in his last seven five-set matches. It was also just the third time that Federer had ever surrendered a two-set lead in a Grand Slam and cost him a realistic shot at overhauling Nadal atop the world rankings until at least after the US Open. Anderson, meanwhile, went on to reach the final and claim a place in the top five.
Which upset surprised you the most at Wimbledon? Let us know in the comments below!