In pulling off one of the most emphatic upsets of the first round of Wimbledon, Aliaksandra Sasnovich lived out one of her favorite adages about the egalitarian nature of her sport.
“Everyone can beat everyone,” she said earlier this year. “It’s tennis, you know? The ball is round.”
Sasnovich, ranked 50th, hit that equitable ball past eighth-seeded Petra Kvitova more and more as their match wore on Tuesday, winning in three sets, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0.
Kvitova, a champion here in 2011 and ’14, was the oddsmakers’ favorite to win the women’s title.
She was also last year’s betting favorite at Wimbledon, only her third tournament back on tour after a attack in her home wounded her left hand and forced her off tour for five months. When she lost in the second round to 95th-ranked Madison Brengle, it was easy to dismiss her favorite status as largely sentimental.
This year, however, Kvitova was a logical pick. She leads the WTA tour with 38 wins and five tournament titles in 2018, the most recent coming two weeks ago on the grass of Birmingham, England. She even won 13 straight matches on clay, her least favorite surface.
But on the biggest stages this year, Kvitova has fallen flat. She lost in the first round of the Australian Open and the third round of the French Open.
“The nerves were there again,” she said Tuesday. “I don’t know; I just tried to kind of fight with myself — probably was the biggest opponent which I have.”
After winning in Birmingham, Kvitova said that her problem at the Grand Slam events had simply been wanting success too much.
“Probably I want it too much again,” Kvitova said, smiling. “I just made a joke that probably I’m going to skip the Grand Slams for the next years. I will see how everything is going.”
Early in her career, Kvitova had excelled at the biggest tournaments while struggling for consistency at rank-and-file tour events. She now has the opposite problem, as the stakes become clearer to her.
“I think I didn’t really care that much before,” she said. “I do care — unfortunately — now.”
Maria Sharapova, who won Wimbledon in 2004 and reached the final again in 2011, also lost Tuesday, to the 132nd-ranked qualifier Vitalia Diatchenko, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3), 6-4.
The 24th-seeded Sharapova, who last played Wimbledon in 2015, had led by 5-2 in the second set. Down match point, she double-faulted to lose in the first round of a Grand Slam event for only the second time since the 2003 French Open.
Diatchenko played bold, loose tennis against Sharapova, smacking 22 forehand winners compared to just 10 for Sharapova. Nearly three-quarters of the points in the match lasted four or fewer shots.
“She swung away,” Sharapova said of Diatchenko. “She played extremely aggressive. I was playing a little bit too defensively for what I should have been doing. Yeah, she was there to win it, and she did.”
Overall, 21 seeds — 11 women and 10 men — lost in the first round of Wimbledon over the past two days.
Sasnovich, a bubbly Belarusian, had a breakthrough in the first week of the season, when, ranked 88th and a qualifier, she reached the final of a loaded WTA tournament in Brisbane. When she found out after the draw ceremony that she would face the left-handed Kvitova in the first round, she found a left-handed hitting partner named Mike and practiced with him for four days.
“Everyone is equal here; everyone wants to win,” Sasnovich said. “Every day, you have to come and show your good tennis if you want a good result.”
Sasnovich, 24, said she was still capable of unlocking much more within herself — and that she should do so soon.
“I want to improve and improve, because I think I have a good potential,” she said. “I still didn’t open myself 100 percent. I’m open just 50, 55. I’m 24, so it’s time.”
Sasnovich also led Belarus to the Fed Cup final against the United States, which they hosted in Minsk in November. Before that final, Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s president, met privately with the team for 20 minutes.
Sasnovich’s win over Kvitova came on Belarus’s Independence Day.
“Everyone writes me that we now have two celebrations today,” she said.
Several other underdogs had reasons to celebrate Tuesday. Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, a former top-10 player who is now 56th after injury problems, beat sixth-seeded Caroline Garcia, 7-6 (2), 6-3. Four of the top eight seeds in women’s singles are out of the tournament.
But top-seeded Simona Halep and No. 3 Garbiñe Muguruza, the defending champion, needed less than three hours between them to cruised through their first-round matches on Centre Court.
On the men’s side, Marcos Baghdatis, ranked 95th, advanced when seventh-seeded Dominic Thiem, the runner-up at the French Open last month, retired with an injury. Matthew Ebden soundly defeated 10th-seeded David Goffin, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. Ebden, 30, had never beaten a top-10 player at a Grand Slam event.
His win was a highlight of a strong day for Australians, who won seven of their nine matches.