Allya Kudryavtseva, Janko Tipsarevic, and Zheng Jie wiped out their top ten opponents at Wimbledon.

Maria Sharapova was down 2-5 and serving to stay in the first set when she looped a high forehand to her opponent, Alla Kudryavtseva. Kudryavtseva took the looper and slammed it for a winner. What was Sharapova doing footsying around when she was barely hanging in the match? On the next point she unaccountably sent a routine backhand wide to give Kudryavtseva a set point.

It seems to me that I asked this question earlier this week – was it during the Marat Safin/Novak Djokovic match? I think so. I think it came after Djokovic managed to break Safin only to slide back into oblivion and lose the third set, and match, with very little of his trademark fight or orneriness. So here’s that question again: WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

Here’s the answer: there’s a disease going round this year’s version of Wimbledon. The disease renders its victims incapable of finding rhythm on grass and, in the more seriously afflicted, strangely unable to dredge up their fighting spirit. Djokovic and Sharapova are known as fighters above all else.

On set point, Sharapova hit a hard serve right on the service line – unusual enough in itself because she’d already had five double faults by this time – and Kudryavtseva shanked the ball. Unfortunately the shanked ball turned into a wicked drop shot that took Sharapova wide and Kudryavtseva had the first set.

The origin of the disease isn’t hard to track down. Kudryavtseva could have coughed up that point. Balls that bounce off the chalk and die on the grass can throw off your rhythm, but it’s the lower ranked players who are dealing well with the conditions, not the top ten players. Take double faults for instance: Kudryatseva had three of them in the first game of the second set and went down a break immediately but it didn’t seem to throw her game off.

She kept going for shots and played more than credible defense – not a skill that Sharapova has in spades and also the slightest hint that these younger players have, if not an all-round game, more than enough power and defense to knock off anyone. And they’re not shy either. Check out this exchange between the 154th ranked Kudryavtseva and a journalist at her post-match media session:

Q. How significant was it, especially to beat Sharapova?
ALLA KUDRYAVTSEVA: It’s very pleasant to beat your — you know, Maria.

Q. Why?
ALLA KUDRYAVTSEVA: Why? Well, I don’t like her outfit. Can I put it this way?

Whoa, throw down some smack why don’t you? Meanwhile, Sharapova kept hitting double faults as if she was suffering from a group hysteria brought on by the trauma of the depth and breadth of competition in tennis today. And it isn’t just coming from the younger players.

Janko Tipsarevic is 24 years old and just keeps getting better. Tipsarevic pushed Roger Federer to 10-8 in the third set at the Australian Open before losing and this week he went one better by winning the last three sets of his match with Andy Roddick. Roddick hasn’t looked good here. His shoulder isn’t 100%, true enough, but he hasn’t gone past the quarterfinals at Wimbledon since 2006 and grass is his best surface.

Zheng Jie thrashed number one ranked Ana Ivanovic, 6-1, 6-4, and Ivanovic was defending semifinal points. Ivanovic already had the disease: but for a fortuitous net cord, she should have lost to 97th ranked Natalie Dechy. Zheng is ranked number 133 herself but she’s been as high as number 27. She missed the second half of last year with an ankle injury.

I’m looking around to see if there are any other upsets on the horizon. Who’s left in the top five? David Ferrer went out to Mario Ancic but that wasn’t much of an upset, so Federer is the next best guess because no one is steamrolling Nadal. Marion Ancic beat Federer on grass in 2002.

It couldn’t happen again, right?

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