WIMBLEDON, England (MCT) Wimbledon got through another day without a drop of rain quite the upset considering the usual weather here but the tournament suffered two high-profile casualties Thursday with shocking defeats of Maria Sharapova and Andy Roddick.
Combined with losses by James Blake and Jesse Levine, only one American man 106th-ranked Bobby Reynolds is left standing. It is the worst performance by U.S. men at Wimbledon in the Open era. Things are a bit better on the U.S. women's side, despite the withdrawal Thursday of injured former champion Lindsay Davenport, who headed home to rest a sore knee.
Defending champion Venus Williams breezed into the third round, joining younger sister, Serena, and Bethanie Mattek, who trains in Boca Raton, Fla. One obstacle they no longer have to worry about is world No. 2 Sharapova. Wearing her glamorous tuxedo ensemble and dangling Tiffany earrings, Sharapova was bounced, 6-2, 6-4, in the second round by 154th-ranked Russian compatriot and Boca Raton, Fla., resident Alla Kudryavtseva. The lesser-known Russian is the daughter of a former world champion Greco-Roman wrestler, and she showed remarkable poise taking down Sharapova.
A few hours later, the sun sank, and so did American hope Roddick, who was outplayed by 40th-ranked Serbian Janko Tipsarevic. Known for his tattoos, wraparound glasses and creative shot-making, Tipsarevic outlasted Roddick, 6-7 (7-5), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4). Roddick served 27 aces, but he was 0-for-8 on break points and squandered three set points in the final set.
"Any chance I got, I pretty much choked it," Roddick said. "It's not an easy thing to say, but it's pretty much what happened. It's like you want something so bad you almost squeeze it too tight."
He then embarked on a brutally candid assessment of his career frustrations. His sole Grand Slam title was the 2003 U.S. Open, and he badly craves another. "At this point, it's almost like win another Slam or what? You're disappointing? That's a tough thing to deal with. I could probably coast and be a top 10 player and have a cushy lifestyle and be set for as long as I need to be set for, but I don't know if that appeals to me. I don't know if I'm satisfied with that.
"It's like, when you've seen the Rolling Stones from the front row, and then all of a sudden you're seven or eight rows back, and there's a really tall guy in front of you waving his hands and screaming, you can't see much, it's not going to be as good as the other show. I want to win another Slam. If I go win a regular tour event, what are you guys going to say? 'Who cares?' I'm aware of the situation I'm in."
Tipsarevic admitted he caught Roddick on a bad day and capitalized on his mistakes. "I could see he was tight. Professional tennis players feel the intensity and see when the other guy is choking. If you can read that, it's a great bonus and benefit for you."
Kudryavtseva, 20, took a similar approach and pulled off her stunner with power and confidence. She didn't have a fancy outfit. In fact, it looked like her two sponsor patches were glued on her shirt at the last minute. But she played like she belonged on the court with the sport's most-publicized player.
She was equally bold in the post-match interview. Asked why it felt so good to beat Sharapova, she smiled, and said, "Can I be honest? I don't like her outfit. That was one motivation."
She also said she doesn't know Sharapova personally because "she's not very talkative or outgoing." Is she worried Sharapova might take her comments personally? Apparently not. "If I'm not afraid to go play her and she's world No. 2, I'm not afraid she's going to catch me in the dressing room and say, 'You know what, you said you don't like my outfit. You were wrong.' I will say, 'Sorry. That's just my opinion."'
Sharapova, who became famous after her 2004 Wimbledon title, appeared frustrated from the start. She made 22 unforced errors and double-faulted on a crucial point in the final game. It was her earliest exit from a Grand Slam since she joined the tour five years ago.
"It wasn't my day," Sharapova conceded. "She just did everything better than I did. She had nothing to lose, went for her shots. I was pretty tentative. But I'm experienced enough to know that life goes on and there are a lot worse things that can happen than losing a tennis match, even if it's at Wimbledon and even if it means a lot to me.
"I still have the desire, even 30 minutes after that loss, to go back on court and get better because that's the only thing that's going to get me to hold that plate again."
Kudryavtseva was determined to fight until the end. She was two points from beating Venus Williams in the first round of Wimbledon last year, but lost. "Do I believe I won? Yes, I believe," said Kudryavtseva, who has been training in Delray Beach, Fla., with coach Christian Zahalka since last December. "I was so close to beating Venus last year, and that was my thought coming into this match with Maria. I missed one chance and didn't want to miss another."
Blake and Levine lost five-setters Blake to Rainer Schuettler of Germany, and Levine, in his first Wimbledon, to Jurgen Melzer of Austria. "I'm not satisfied with my result, but at the same time, I leave this Wimbledon feeling like I belong with these guys," said Levine, 20, who came through qualifying. "It's a huge boost of confidence for me."
World No. 2 Rafael Nadal lost the first set against Latvian 19-year-old Ernests Gulbis, but he rallied and survived, 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (9-7), 6-3. His day ended on a good note too, with Spain beating Russia in the Euro 2008 soccer semifinals.