Karolina Pliskova (CZE) vs.  Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK)
In a year when there seems to be no clear-cut favorite(s) at the Majors since Serena Williams’ departure due to maternity leave, the fans and public have struggled to find someone to wear the mantle on the women’s tour. Simona Halep was slated as a favorite to win Roland Garros; however, after a promising start in the final, she stumbled and lost to Jelena Ostapenko. At least Halep made it to the final; the two favorites for Wimbledon had no such luck, both never got past the second round. While it’s understandable that Petra Kvitova may have not been fully fit to wear the mantle, her record at Wimbledon and her recent success in Birmingham inspired the nomination. Karolina Pliskova on the other hand deserved the nomination based on her game and recent successes on the Tour (she won Eastbourne-the grass court tournament leading into Wimbledon); thus, today’s loss has to go down as the biggest upset of the tournament to date.
Pliskova’s loss reminds us why the burden of expectation can be so debilitating. As much as we try to ignore it, it is a reality. Many still remember the mental collapse of Serena Williams at the 2015 US Open; she was the favorite to win the title and gain a Grand Slam as well as tie Steffi Graf’s record of twenty-two major titles. We saw how the pressure got to her and that opportunity slipped out of her grasp. While she did go on to tie Graf’s record at the 2016 Wimbledon, the possibility of winning the Grand Slam is now very low.
Today we got another example of how the pressure of expectation can hamper the game of a talented player. Pliskova won the first set and was up a break in the second set, all Pliskova had to do was hold her serve and she would still be in the draw as the favorite; yet, we will never fully comprehend what went on in her mind as the reality of being the favorite crashed into her mind. Credit to Rybarikova, she had to fight off the big serves and the ferocious forehands to win the match. Although there was a decline in Pliskova’s game due to tension, Rybarikova had to win it with some brilliant tennis. With the 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory, she gets the biggest upset win of her career and advances to the third round of Wimbledon for the second time in her career.
INJURY NOTE: Rybarikova had knee and left wrist surgery post 2016 Wimbledon and just returned to the Tour in February 2017.
SOURCE OF IMAGES: Bing search (featured photo from sport.aktuality.sk; photo at the net from liberation.fr)