By Alison Williams
LONDON (Reuters) – Karolina Pliskova, a favorite for the Wimbledon title, was dumped out in round two on Thursday, blowing the women’s draw wide open in one of the shocks of the tournament so far.
The Czech third seed had been leading by a set and a break, but was beaten 3-6 7-5 6-2 by 87th-ranked Slovak Magdalena Rybarikova, who put on a never-say-die show of gutsy tennis after coming back to the game after injury.
Pliskova came into the tournament on the back of a grasscourt title in Eastbourne and leading the Race to Singapore season rankings but had never reached the third round at the All England Club.
“My expectations were a little bit different than to make one round here. That’s tennis, you know. Still, you still can play well and you don’t have to win,” Pliskova, 25 said.
Depending on the results of Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber, she still has a shot at being world number one after Wimbledon.
“Well, for me, the tournament is over. So, whatever happens, happens. I’m not going to pray for somebody’s losing or winning,” she said.
“I’m just going to take off and let’s just wait (to see) who’s going to win it. It’s a tough draw for everybody I think.”
With 23-times grand slam champion Serena Williams out expecting her first child, the women’s field already had plenty of names in the frame for the title, with pundits also starting to talk up the chances of British sixth seed Johanna Konta.
“It really blows the women’s draw wide open,” twice U.S. Open champion Tracey Austin told the BBC.
Rybarikova, who meets Ukrainian world number 35 Lesia Tsurenko in round three, played down her own chances despite now having won 15 out of 16 matches on the grass this season.
“I’m not thinking about it … It will be very difficult,” she said.
Experienced campaigner Rybarikova had been as high as 31 in the world in 2013 but missed the second half of 2016 due to wrist and knee surgery.
“It’s special. I had two surgeries and hadn’t played for seven months, and right now I am in the third round in Wimbledon and I just beat Karolina Pliskova,” she said.
“It was a difficult time for me and my fitness coach told me that something good was going to happen. And I guess it just happened right now.”
(Reporting by Alison Williams; editing by Clare Lovell)