LONDON, July 4: Maria Sharapova suffered her first opening round Wimbledon defeat and earliest Grand Slam exit in eight years when she was shocked by fellow Russian Vitalia Diatchenko, the world number 132.
Sharapova, the 2004 champion, was joined yesterday at the exit by 2011 and 2014 winner Petra Kvitova who was stunned by Belarusian world number 50 Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
However, two-time men�s champion Rafael Nadal and three-time winner Novak Djokovic eased into the second round.
Sharapova was cruising to victory at one stage on Court Two with a set and 5-2 lead before qualifier Diatchenko shrugged off a back injury to win 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 after more than three hours of tense action.
Sharapova, playing Wimbledon for the first time in three years after missing 2016 through a drugs ban and 2017 due to injury, gave up the match on her 11th double fault.
It was her earliest exit at a Slam since a first round defeat at the 2010 Australian Open.
Eighth seed Kvitova was the bookmakers� favourite for a third Wimbledon crown after winning five titles in 2018, amassing an WTA Tour-leading 38 match victories.
But she slumped to a disappointing 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 loss to Sasnovich.
Kvitova is the fourth top 10 women�s seed to lose in the first round.
Number four Sloane Stephens and fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina were eliminated on Monday.
France�s Caroline Garcia, seeded six, was also beaten Tuesday, going down 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 to Switzerland�s Belinda Bencic.
World number one Nadal breezed into the second round with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win over Israel�s Dudi Sela as the Spaniard returned to action for the first time since claiming his 11th French Open title.
Djokovic reached the second round with a 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 win over Tennys Sandgren of the United States.
Djokovic was forced to retire from his quarterfinal against Tomas Berdych with an elbow injury last year.
After sixth seed Grigor Dimitrov was sent packing on Monday, it was the turn of French Open runner-up Dominic Thiem and Belgium�s David Goffin to pack their bags. Austrian seventh seed Thiem retired with a back injury against Cypriot veteran Marcos Baghdatis, trailing 6-4, 7-5, 2-0.
Goffin, the 10th seed, slumped to a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 loss to Australia�s Matthew Ebden. Argentine fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro made it nine first round wins in nine appearances at the tournament, easing past Germany�s Peter Gojowczyk 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
Del Potro, who made the semifinals in 2013, next faces Feliciano Lopez of Spain who on Tuesday set a record of playing 66 consecutive Grand Slams when he eased past Federico Delbonis of Argentina 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
The 36-year-old broke the record for straight Slams which was previously held by Roger Federer.
German fourth seed Alexander Zverev beat world number 748 James Duckworth of Australia 7-5, 6-2, 6-0.
World number one Simona Halep started her challenge for a first Wimbledon title with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Japan�s Kurumi Nara. � AFP