WIMBLEDON, England — Staid old Wimbledon got bounced on its fanny here Tuesday. Somebody sat on the spectacles and broke them. Egad. Somebody else put lowfat milk on the strawberries.
Strange things happened. The orderly became disorderly:
An ailing Serena Williams defaulted out of a doubles match with her sister Venus when she couldn’t hit a serve fast enough to register on the speed gun.
Rafael Nadal, who has won 14 major titles, including two on the very Center Court where he was playing, was upset by a 19-year-old Australian ranked No. 144 in the world.
Maria Sharapova, like Nadal a reigning French Open champion, winner of all four major titles at least once and a tough battler, was outfought by a German woman who won despite losing six match points.
The Williams scene was strange. So was the later explanation.
Serena and Venus warmed up on Court 1, then sat down before their match against Kristina Barrois of Germany and Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland was to start. Soon, medical personnel surrounded Serena. She was crying, they took her blood pressure and had her follow their finger with her eyes.
That took 15 minutes and then, without further explanation, apparently with no medical ruling that she shouldn’t be out there — nor additional warmup time for Barrois and Voegele — all were sent out to play.
It got more bizarre.
When it was Serena’s turn to serve, at 0-2, she was barely able to get the ball to the net. It wasn’t serving. It was a 5-year-old’s pitty-pat. She was clearly in some sort of serious distress — this is the player with the fastest serve in woman’s tennis — and yet the doctors, her sister and other officials let her pitty-pat four times before the chair umpire left her perch and suggested the Williams sisters end this.
Soon, medical personnel — the same ones who let her go out and play — were escorting her off the court.
Roughly three hours later, after media requests became demands, written statements from the sisters were handed out.
Serena: “I am heartbroken I’m not able to continue in this tournament. I thought I could rally this morning, because I really wanted to compete, but this bug got the best of me. I want to thank my sister, Kristina, Stefanie and our teams for their support… . From the bottom of my heart, I thank all of the fans for their cheers and understanding.”
Venus: “Unfortunately, Serena has been feeling unwell for the past few days and she just couldn’t play to her potential today.”
Play to her potential? She could barely walk.
There were no specifics about the bug. Flu? Upper respiratory? Sinus? Beetle?
There was no elaboration from the women’s tennis sanctioning body, the WTA, which has effectively tiptoed around the Williams sisters for years.
Did this “bug” contribute to her upset loss in singles Saturday? Had she seen a doctor before this match?
Illness is no joking matter. Nor is the perpetual mystery that seems to surround the Williams sisters.
May the bug, whatever it is, go away.
Nadal is going away. He suffered one of the more incredible upsets in Wimbledon history. When he lost to Nick Kyrgios, 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3, it marked the first time since 1992 that a player outside the top 100 had beaten a world No. 1 at a Grand Slam event.
Nadal has won here twice, as well as nine times at the French, twice at the U.S. Open and once at the Australian. Kyrgios’ victory was a virtual giant-killing. He hit Nadal with 37 aces and had a 70-44 edge in winners.
Nadal was philosophical afterward.
“I congratulate him,” he said. “For me, the beach.”
That meant he was headed home to Majorca and its perfect weather.
Kyrgios was headed for a quarterfinal match with the big-serving Canadian, Milos Raonic, who advanced by beating 10th-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4), 6-3. Raonic is seeded eighth.
Kyrgios fittingly closed the match with an ace, then did a little dance.
“I have no idea what it was,” he said later.
He was told his mother, back home in Australia, had told a radio interviewer she thought Nadal would be too tough for her son.
“I’ll text her a smiley face,” he said.
There were few smiley faces in the 2-hour 37-minute Sharapova-Angelique Kerber match on Center Court, which provided warm-up drama for fans who got another dose with Nadal-Kyrgios.
Sharapova was seeded fifth, and with the departure of No. 1 Serena Williams on Saturday, that part of the draw had opened up for the Russian star for a run at a second title here 10 years after her first as a 17-year old. She had lost only seven games coming into the match.
But Kerber, as stubborn as Sharapova, though never having advanced further than a Grand Slam semifinal, got to match point at 5-2 in the third set. Sharapova fought her off. Sharapova did the same after starting her service game at 4-5 of the final set with three errors. Then, in a game that produced four deuces, two game points and six more break points (match points), she battled hard. But so did Kerber, who finally won when Sharapova hit long.
The score was 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-4.
Kerber said, “I don’t know how I did it, but I just believed in my game.”
Lost in all this Tuesday drama and strangeness was the continued cruise control of an old hand here. Seven-time champion Roger Federer won his fourth straight match in straight sets, routing Tommy Robredo, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. His quarterfinal will be against his Swiss buddy, Stan Wawrinka, in a side of the men’s bracket now opened up for him.