Even the best fall down sometimes. Maria Sharapova is no exception.
Nine years ago on the lawns of Wimbledon, Sharapova announced herself to the world when she took out Serena Williams in straight sets in the final at the age of 17.
Today, in the middle of one of the most consistent years of her career, she tumbled out of the second round to No. 131 Michele Larcher de Brito.
On this day the steady and fearless Sharapova who we have come to admire over the years was nowhere to be found. She quite literally couldn't find her footing on the Wimbledon lawns, which have been causing many players to slip and slide over the last three days.
This was an upset of Darcis-like proportions.
Though de Brito was a much-heralded junior prospect, she hasn't done much worth noting since turning pro. The 20-year-old had only won nine matches in 2013. She came into Wimbledon on a four-match losing streak, having gone 0-2 in her grass-court warm-ups. In her prior tournament at Eastbourne she lost to the No. 229 player in the world, clay-courter Arantxa Parra Santonja, 4-6 6-4 6-4.
De Brito found her form in Wimbledon qualifying and made it through without dropping a set. In the first round, she struggled but ultimately defeated American Melanie Oudin.
But there was absolutely nothing to suggest that the hard-hitting 20-year-old from Portugal, best known for the volume of her shrieks rather than the power of her strokes, would give Sharapova any trouble.
After all, Maria Sharapova has had a great year. She's 37-6 with two titles and a French Open Final on her resume.
Since the Australian Open, where she lost in the semifinals to an in-form Li Na, Sharapova has only lost to one player over and over again: Serena Williams.
Serena and Sharapova made headlines for their personal but public war of words coming into Wimbledon, but on the court, their rivalry has been one-sided. Maria Sharapova has not beaten Serena Williams since 2004.
Still, despite losing to Serena in straight sets, Sharapova played some of her best tennis in the French Open Final. As reliable as she has been lately, it seemed she could be confidently penciled into (at least) the Wimbledon semifinals.
Not so fast. Today at Wimbledon, nothing went according to form.
Metaphorically speaking, it was the bloodiest day in Wimbledon history.
It's Official. Today is the record for withdrawals/retirements on the same day in a Grand Slam in the Open Era. #Wimbledon— Tennis Stats (@TennisStatistic) June 26, 2013
Highlighted of course by Sergiy Stakhovsky's stunning upset of Roger Federer, the day was a bizarre one from the get-go.
It started out with Victoria Azarenka, the No. 2 seed and Sharapova's supposed semifinal opponent, withdrawing due to the knee injury she suffered when she fell during her first-round match. Then the domino effect began.
Steve Darcis, Nadal's conquerer, had to withdraw before his match with a shoulder injury. John Isner came down wrong on his knee during the second game of his match and had to retire. Radek Stepanek and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga retired mid-match. Yaroslava Shvedova, of golden set fame, and Marin Cilic both had to withdraw as well.
Former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki then took a terrible tumble during her match, hurt her ankle and went out in straight sets to Petra Cetkovska.
And though she refused to use it as an excuse for her loss, Sharapova fell down three times during her match. At one point she complained to the umpire about the courts being too dangerous. It was as if the self-proclaimed "cow on ice" had moved from clay to grass.
Sharapova: 'Dont think Ive ever fallen 3 times in career but thats no excuse. Seen other players fall. Part of what we have to deal with'— Matt Cronin (@TennisReporters) June 26, 2013
Given her form coming in, the expectations surrounding her and the ranking of her opponent, it was Sharapova's worst loss at a Grand Slam in her career.
Sharapova has always been prone to off-days, it's just that we're used to seeing those off-days happen later in tournaments. Her problem isn't her lack of fight or talent or ambition, it's her lack of a Plan B. Today, that hurt her.
She couldn't find her footing, she couldn't find her depth and over and over again she couldn't find her own greatness. To Larcher de Brito's immense credit, she seized the moment.
Maria Sharapova will be back. She's too good of a player and too stubborn of a person to let a bad day like today keep her down. Knowing her commitment to the game and intense work ethic, she'll learn from this and come back to Wimbledon more determined than ever. Perhaps she'll even come back in with more Grand Slams in her pocket. Never count her out.
But today, Sharapova looked a far cry from the Wimbledon champion she was nine years ago. Today she simply looked ordinary.
As today showed us time and time again, that can happen to anyone.