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Maria Sharapova loses in Wimbledon first round for first time

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LONDON (AP) — These are not the sorts of matches Maria Sharapova is supposed to lose, letting lead after lead slip away Tuesday against a qualifier ranked 132nd — and in the first round of Wimbledon, no less.

Then again, at this edition of The Championships, as they prefer to call the event around here, the initial 48 hours have provided more surprising exits than anyone’s accustomed to: A total of seven top-10 men’s and women’s seeds departed in the opening round, more than in any previous year in the professional era’s half-century.

That includes two-time champion and No. 8 seed Petra Kvitova, who was sent home by Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 a few hours before 2004 titlist Sharapova folded against Vitalia Diatchenko in a 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3), 6-4 loss she seemingly controlled time and again before dropping the last three games.

“Sometimes,” Sharapova said, “you put yourself in a better or winning position, and you don’t finish.”

A 15-month doping ban kept her out of the grass-court Grand Slam tournament in 2016, and an injury sidelined her a year ago. It looked as if it would be a pleasant, straightforward return when she went ahead by a set and a break at 5-2.

Sharapova then served for the match at 5-3, but faltered. After being pushed to a third set, Sharapova went up a break at 2-1. That edge disappeared right away. She went up another break at 4-3. That advantage, too, was given right back. Sharapova’s collapse eventually ended, perhaps fittingly, with her 11th double-fault.

How unlikely was this result?

Since losing the first two Grand Slam matches of her career as a teenager, Sharapova was 49-1 in openers at majors, 13-0 at Wimbledon.

She’s a former No. 1, now seeded 24th, who owns five Grand Slam titles.

And Diatchenko?

Repeatedly sidetracked by injuries of one sort or another — “I think I will write a book after I finish playing,” Diatchenko joked about her health history — the 27-year-old Russian came into the day 0-2 at Wimbledon and 8-25 overall in main-draw matches at all tour-level events.

“Everybody,” Diatchenko said, “expects me to lose the match.”

MORE: Serena Williams says it is unfair she gets drug tested more

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Wimbledon first round sees record number of top-10 upsets

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Seven top-10 singles seeds lost in Wimbledon’s first round, a record number of Grand Slam opening-round upsets in the Open Era.

No. 6 Caroline Garcia and No. 8 Petra Kvitova and No. 7 Dominic Thiem and No. 10 David Goffin all went out Tuesday after No. 4 Sloane Stephens and No. 5 Elina Svitolina and No. 6 Grigor Dimitrov were ousted Monday.

The previous record for top-10 upsets in the first round was six, last happening at the 1998 French Open.

Meanwhile, major champions Rafael NadalNovak Djokovic, Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza all swept through the first round.

The biggest stunner Tuesday had to be Kvitova, picked by many to win her third Wimbledon.

The Czech was stunned by 50th-ranked Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus 6-4, 4-6, 6-0.

Kvitova was coming off a grass-court title at Birmingham, England, last month and entered Tuesday with a tour-leading 38 victories this season.

Sasnovich came in with a 2-3 career record at Wimbledon, including a first-round loss a year ago, and a 9-13 Grand Slam mark.

Nadal, twice a Wimbledon champion, moved into the second round with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win over Dudi Sela of Israel.

The second-seeded Nadal hadn’t played a match since claiming his 11th French Open title last month, but showed little sign of rust as he cruised to victory.

Nadal is seeking a first Wimbledon title since 2010, which would also make him just the second man to do the French Open-Wimbledon double three times.

He will next face Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan.

Djokovic equaled John McEnroe’s number of matches won at Wimbledon by beating American Tennys Sandgren 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 for his 59th match victory at the All England Club.

That puts him level with McEnroe in fifth place on the all-time list, behind only Roger Federer, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker and Pete Sampras. Djokovic is looking for his fourth Wimbledon title, while Sandgren — who reached the Australian Open quarterfinals — was making his debut in the tournament.

Top-ranked Halep eased into the second round with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Kurumi Nara of Japan.

The French Open champion was playing her first match since winning her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros but showed no signs of rust as she broke Nara four times to wrap up the win in 78 minutes.

“It was a big challenge to come and win the first round — it’s not easy after winning a Grand Slam, I knew it was going to be a tough match,” Halep said. “I felt OK. I didn’t think too much that I didn’t have any matches on grass (before Wimbledon). I thought I had enough power to adjust myself. Grass is really tough and every match can go either way. I have no expectations.”

Halep made the semifinals at the All England Club in 2014 but lost in the quarterfinals the past two years.

Defending champion Muguruza advanced with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over British wild card Naomi Broady.

The No. 3-seeded Spaniard overcame a partisan crowd as she fulfilled the reigning women’s champion’s honor of opening proceedings on Centre Court.

Muguruza faced only one break point in the match, but her failure to convert the regular chances she created on Broady’s delivery made for a competitive second set.

However, the two-time Grand Slam champion maintained her focus to close out the match and set up a second-round meeting with Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium.

American Jack Sock, seeded 18th, continued his poor year by losing to Italian Matteo Berrettini in five sets.

Another American, former junior star Frances Tiafoe, notched his first win over a seeded player at a Grand Slam, ousting No. 30 Fernando Verdasco in four sets.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

MORE: Serena Williams says it is unfair she gets drug tested more

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Maria Sharapova routed by Garbine Muguruza in French Open quarterfinal

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The extra rest from Maria Sharapova‘s walkover from an injured Serena Williams did little for her in the French Open quarterfinals.

Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, the No. 3 seed and 2016 French Open champ, routed Sharapova 6-2, 6-1 in 70 minutes to advance to Thursday’s semifinals against top-ranked Simona Halep, a 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-2 winner over Angelique Kerber later Wednesday.

Americans Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys meet in the other Thursday semi.

On the men’s side, Rafael Nadal‘s quarterfinal was stopped by rain with Argentine Diego Schwartzman leading 6-4, 3-5, and Nadal serving, two points from evening the match. Nadal-Schwartzman and the last men’s quarterfinal, Marin Cilic and Juan Martin del Potro tied 5-5 in a first-set tiebreak, are scheduled to resume Thursday at 6 a.m. ET.

Sharapova, a two-time French Open champ, played at Roland Garros this year for the first time since 2015. She missed 2016 due to a doping ban and wasn’t given a wild card in 2017, when her comeback ranking wasn’t high enough to earn a main-draw spot.

Sharapova was to face Williams in a fourth-round showdown Monday. The Russian received a walkover after Williams withdrew with a right pectoral muscle injury that prevented her from serving.

On Wednesday, Sharapova looked far from her best right from the start, double-faulting three times to get broken in the opening game. She ended up with six double-faults and 27 total unforced errors, 12 more than Muguruza.

“I think she did a lot of things better than I did. I think she was the aggressive one,” Sharapova said. “She had a lot more depth in the ball. I think my shots were a lot more forced. She served a lot better than I did.”

Muguruza hasn’t dropped a set in Paris. She entered Wednesday’s quarterfinal fresh, too, after Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko retired from their fourth-round match Monday with a leg injury after two games.

NBC, NBCSports.com/live and NBC Sports app coverage of the French Open continues Thursday at 11 a.m. across all time zones.

French Open Semifinals
Women
(1) Simona Halep – (3) Garbine Muguruza
(13) Madison Keys – (10) Sloane Stephens

Men
(1) Nadal/(11) Schwartzman – (3) Cilic/(5) Del Potro
Marco Cecchinato – (7) Dominic Thiem

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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