Women’s No. 1 Iga Swiatek exits Wimbledon after losing in third round


An alert to this story incorrectly stated that Yulia Putintseva is ranked 27th in the world. Putintseva is ranked 35th.

WIMBLEDON, England – At the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, the crowds on majestic Centre Court and prestigious Court 1 are usually silent, cheering respectfully unless there is a British player, in which case they are very respectful. The silence is almost eerily quiet as the players prepare to serve, and even then, the sound of the ball hitting the court is usually muffled by the grass.

But Saturday’s closed-door match on Court 1 looked more like a Fourth of July fireworks show than a doubles match at the All England Club, with the heavy hitting of top seed Iga Swiatek and unseeded Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan all the more powerful. The crowd felt the gunpowder and responded in kind, turning up the volume to high levels and cheering Putintseva on as she became the first woman to beat Swiatek since April 20.

Putintseva defeated the top seed 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 in less than two hours to end Swiatek’s 21-match winning streak and send the world No. 1 into the third round of a Grand Slam for the second time this year.

She then threw her racket aside, extended her arms, palms up, and turned in amazement as the crowd showered her with applause. The applause was so loud that the first thing she did in her on-court interview was ask to hear the question again.

“I couldn’t hear you, I’m sorry,” said Putintseva, smiling.

Her win means only three of the top 10 seeds remain in the women’s draw at the end of Saturday’s rain-soaked day: second seed Coco Gauff, fourth seed Elena Rybakina and seventh seed Jasmine Paolini.

Tenth seed and two-time Wimbledon runner-up Ons Jabeur lost to 21st seed Elina Svitolina 6-1 7-6 (7-4), shortly before Putintseva’s win, and Rybakina secured her ticket to the fourth round with a 6-0 6-1 win over wild card and former Grand Slam champion Caroline Wozniacki.

In many ways, Putintseva’s path to Saturday’s upset win was the exact opposite of her opponent’s.

Swiatek, a five-time Grand Slam champion, was the favourite to win her first title here after winning her fourth French Open title last month, but her path was not expected to be easy.

The 23-year-old is the most talented claycourt player of her generation and an all-around champion, having won 22 titles across all three surfaces of tennis. But success at Wimbledon has eluded her; it is the only Grand Slam where she has never advanced beyond the quarter-finals.

This time, she stuck to her routine and avoided any warm-up tournaments on grass, opting instead to travel to London early for a shortened training period to adapt her body to playing on grass.

By contrast, Putintseva entered Saturday’s match riding a seven-match winning streak on grass after winning a warm-up tournament in Birmingham, England. It was the longest winning streak of her career before she won her eighth.

The 29-year-old, who was born in Moscow before deciding to represent Kazakhstan in 2012, has had only a fraction of Swiatek’s Grand Slam success. She has never made it past the second round at Wimbledon.

But she has courage and plays tennis with confidence. Putintseva had the freedom to face Swiatek because she had not won a set in their previous four meetings.

“I was just [thinking]”I can do it. I have to believe 100 percent. I have nothing to lose, just go for it,” Putintseva said. “As my coach told me, ‘No matter what shot you hit, you have to believe 100 percent and just go for it.'”

Thus, Putintseva’s courage met Svyatoslav’s fatigue.

Swintek fell so quickly after a routine first set that she seemed to surprise herself on the court. Putintseva was strong, especially with her powerful groundstrokes, but she wasn’t hitting Swintek on the court so much as she was resilient to her opponent’s mistakes.

Swiatek made 14 errors in the third set, trailing 4-0, and at times seemed stunned by her own performance, a surprising turnaround for a player known for her intense focus. After one particularly bad point, she covered her mouth in disbelief.

“My tank that was pushing me to my limits suddenly became empty, I was kind of surprised,” Swiatek said before offering an immediate analysis. “But I know what I did wrong after Roland Garros. I didn’t really rest properly. I won’t make that mistake again.”

Swiatek said her shortcomings were all psychological in the wake of an intense Roland Garros tournament, where she became only the third woman since the start of the Open era in 1968 to win three consecutive French Open titles. She felt she had not recovered properly and said she might take a year off next year rather than return to work immediately.

“I feel like I need more energy on grass so I can be patient and accept some mistakes,” Swiatek said. “For me, going from this type of tennis where I feel like I’m playing the best tennis of my life to another surface where I struggle a little bit more, it’s not easy.”

Swiatek can at least take solace in the knowledge that she will be back on red clay at the Paris Olympics before heading to the North American hardcourt tour. She will also retain her No. 1 ranking after Wimbledon despite her loss, while Putintseva continues to play.

Putintseva, the 2017 French Open champion and No. 13 seed, will face Jelena Ostapenko in the fourth round, the first time she has reached that stage — and made a lot of noise — at a quiet Wimbledon.

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