An Open Era record 6 of the Top 8 seeds have lost before the third round at Wimbledon. But how surprising are these results and how should we measure them? WTA Insider deciphers a Wimbledon's wacky early rounds.
WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen
July 5, 2018

WIMBLEDON, England - For the first time in the Open Era, 6 of the Top 8 seeds have failed to advance to the third round at Wimbledon, a mark that was punctuated on Thursday when Belgium's Alison Van Uytvanck dismissed defending champion and World No.3 Garbiñe Muguruza in the second round. In total, 14 seeds have bowed out in the first two rounds, leaving only World No.1 Simona Halep, No.7 Karolina Pliskova, No.9 Venus Williams, and No.10 Angelique Kerber as the Top 10 seeds remaining as we begin the third round.

Ousted Seeds: First Round

No.4 Sloane Stephens (l. Vekic)
No.5 Elina Svitolina (l. Maria)
No.6 Caroline Garcia (l. Bencic)
No.8 Petra Kvitova (l. Sasnovich)
No.16 CoCo Vandeweghe (l. Siniakova)
No.19 Magdalena Rybarikova (l. Cirstea)
No.21 Anastasia Sevastova (l. Giorgi)
No.24 Maria Sharapova (l. Diatchenko)
No.30 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (l. Hsieh Su-Wei)
No.31 Zhang Shuai (l. Petkovic)

Ousted Seeds: Second Round

No.2 Caroline Wozniacki (l. Makarova)
No.3 Garbiñe Muguruza (l. Van Uytvanck)
No.22 Johanna Konta (l. Cibulkova)
No.32 Agnieszka Radwanska (l. Safarova)

But not all losses are cut from the same cloth and not all upsets are, well, upsets. Anyone who follows the WTA Tour in detail knows that on any given day it is less about the ranking and more about form, momentum, and match-ups when determining whether any given result is shocking rather than mildly surprising. Yes, Radwanska is a former Wimbledon finalist who excels on the grass, but she is also playing just her second tournament back from injury and Safarova is certainly no slouch either. Vandeweghe has been a regular in the second week at Wimbledon, but she rolled her ankle badly against Siniakova. Vekic and Bencic may have been unseeded, but they are both proven talents on the turf, far more comfortable on grass than the players they ousted. 

With that in mind, we take a closer look at the curious circumstances surrounding the six Top 10 seeds that bowed out early:

No.35 Ekaterina Makarova d. No.2 Caroline Wozniacki, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 in the second round. 

Why it's an upset: Seeded No.2, Wozniacki just came off a fantastic run to her second title of the season in Eastbourne, where she scored strong wins over Johanna Konta, Ashleigh Barty, and Angelique Kerber. In contrast, No.35 Makarova came into Wimbledon on a three-match losing streak and had not won back-to-back matches this season.  

Why it's not an upset: Among active players, only Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Maria Sharapova have tallied more Top 10 wins at a Slam than the Russian, who now has 12. And despite Wozniacki general success in Eastbourne, she had yet to progress past the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. 

What Wozniacki said: "When I look at the draw, there's 90% of everyone else I would have played today, I feel like I would have won. The last 10% I feel like I would have had a chance or a good chance. Sometimes it just doesn't go your way. Sometimes it just doesn't flash. Things just don't add up. Today I played someone who played extremely well. As I said, I don't know that she would be able to keep up this level for the rest of the tournament."

Alison Van Uytvanck, Wimbledon 2018 (Getty)

No.47 Alison Van Uytvanck d. No.3 Garbiñe Muguruza, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 in the second round.

Why it's an upset: The defending champion was coming off what should have been a confidence boosting run to the semifinals at Roland Garros. While she can be erratic at tour-events, the Spaniard has proven herself to be a consistently dangerous player at the majors. Van Uytvanck had not won back-to-back matches since winning the title in Budapest on hard court in February. In her entire career, Van Uytvanck had scored a Top 20 win just once.

Why it's not an upset: Despite the lack of recent results, Belgian's game is perfect for grass. She hits flat and early, she's offensive-minded, and she has good touch around the net and mid-court. The two faced off once before and Van Uytvanck took Muguruza to three sets in Florianopolis in 2014. The match was also put on No.2 Court, a surprising placement for the defending champion, and lower-ranked players always say their chances for the upset improve when the top seeds aren't put on the big show courts. Muguruza also bowed out in the second round at the Australian Open this year.

What Van Uytvanck said: "I mean, anyone on a good day can beat anyone. That's what I think. I still think the top players, their average level is higher than, let's say, sub-top players. But anyone on a good day can beat anyone, for sure.... But it's also we are the underdog. We don't have anything to lose, so that's probably also why we step up our game and just go for it, because anyway, we don't have anything to lose."

Donna Vekic d. No.4 Sloane Stephens, 6-1, 6-3 in the first round. 

Why it's an upset: Stephens was a Wimbledon quarterfinalist in 2013 and had made the final of two of the last three Slams. Vekic is a strong grass court player but Wimbledon has been the site of two heartbreaking losses the last two years, having lost to Venus Williams and Johanna Konta in the first round. 

Why it's not an upset: Vekic is always a dangerous draw on grass - she won the Nottingham title last year and made the semifinals again this year. The tricky first round draw was amplified by the fact that Stephens had not played a match since Paris. 

What Stephens said: "I thought preparation was good. I had a good training block after the French. I did more than I would normally do. I came in here feeling not too bad. I thought I'd have not a great tournament, but I was feeling good about myself, the way I was playing. Obviously a bit of confidence coming off of a French Open final, as any player would. But, yeah, just today was unfortunate, unlucky. I played a good player on grass. That's tough. Sometimes that happens."

Tatjana Maria, Wimbledon

Tatjana Maria d. No.5 Elina Svitolina, 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-1 in the first round. 

Why it's an upset: One of the tour's reliable early-round players, Svitolina had not lost in the first round of a Slam since 2014 US Open. Maria had never beaten a Top 5 player. 

Why it's not an upset: While Svitolina played one our event before Wimbledon, losing to Mihaela Buzarnescu in the Birmingham quarterfinals, Maria won her first WTA title at the Mallorca Open. Grass also remains the one surface on which Svitolina has yet to win a title. And in a bad turn of luck for the Ukrainian, Svitolina appeared to be dealing with a foot injury during the match. 

Belinda Bencic d. No.6 Caroline Garcia, 7-6(2), 6-3 in the first round.

Why it's an upset: Garcia has been one of the most consistent tournament performers this season, having made the Round of 16 or better at 13 of 15 events, including her last 6 events. She also earned her career-best result at Wimbledon last year in the Round of 16. Bencic is a former junior champion at Wimbledon and a former Top 10 player, but she has struggled with injuries the last two years. Wimbledon is just her fourth event since Indian Wells. 

Why it's not an upset: Regardless of her injury comeback, Bencic is Bencic. Her talent is undeniable and she's proven to be a dangerous first-round opponent at the Slams this year. In January she knocked off Venus Williams at the Australian Open, earned a first-round win at Roland Garros after not playing since March. 

What Bencic said: "It's very tough, but you go into the match with, like, not no expectations but just, like, the pressure is on her side and you can just play. Obviously you know that you have to play on your limits to beat her and you can't just have a bad day and play. So you really have to be at the top of your game to beat these kind of people in the first round."

Aliaksandra Sasnovich d. No.8 Petra Kvitova, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 in the first round.

Why it's an upset: Kvitova has been the hottest player on tour this season, leading the WTA in titles and match-wins, and was coming into Wimbledon off her successful title defense in Birmingham. Oh, and did we mention she's a two-time Wimbledon champion? The fact is, Kvitova was, for many, the tournament favorite. 

Why it's not an upset: Sasnovich can play. She proved that in January with a gutsy run to the Brisbane final as a qualifier. With good speed and smart counter-punching, she was exactly the type of opponent who could bother Kvitova in the first round. And despite Kvitova's success at the tour-level this season, she lost in the first round in Melbourne and the third round at Roland Garros. All through the lead-up to Wimbledon she openly discussed her worry that wanting Slam success would lead to nerves, and there's no Slam title she wants more than a third Wimbledon.

What Sasnovich said: "I prepared for it for four days. I practiced with a lefty, my hitting partner. To be honest, last year I did not want to play against two players: Serena and Kvitova. When I saw this I just went on court and practiced and I knew what I needed to do on the court. I played to win. Probably I was dark horse. You never know what I will do. She played with me for the first time. She's two-time champion here. She wanted to win of course. My game is not comfortable for her."

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Quote of the Day: Take it away Jo Konta...

"To be honest, I think this Wimbledon is another demonstration of how seeding is not the be all, end all. The depth we have in the women's game, how players can play very well in any certain match, I am not terribly worried of losing a number next to my name."