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How we view tennis losses

Matt Zemek



Susan Mullane - USA TODAY Sports

At Wimbledon and the other major tournaments, how do we view tennis losses by various prominent players? Our collective commentaries over accumulated years might provide the answer, but fans are not paid to keep track of what commentators say over the course of three or four or five years. Therefore, it is worth taking a brief amount of time and putting a few thoughts down on paper (or to be more precise, a computer screen) on this subject.

I wonder how fans process the losses of various players, such as Angelique Kerber’s loss to an in-form and very impressive Lauren Davis on Thursday at Wimbledon. I wonder about these things not to arrive at a sense of what is correct or incorrect, but to discern how much a player has — or hasn’t — changed the perceptions of outsiders based on personal achievements.

I wonder how this differs from one player to the next, if at all.

So, let’s look at Kerber, emphasizing that your initial view or inclination is not (likely) wrong or unreasonable.

Some of you would probably view this as a bad loss. Some of you would probably say you weren’t expecting Kerber to get past Serena Williams, so it’s not that damaging a defeat and would have been a lot tougher to accept if Kerber’s draw had been easier.

Some of you would probably say that this loss is worse because Kerber won the first set 6-2. Some of you would probably say that this loss isn’t so bad because Kerber was dealing with injuries and earlier this season and, much like 2018, simply did not enter Wimbledon with overflowing confidence.

These are all reasonable reactions.

My question: What governs these reactions? What circumstances or details would change how any observer would process this loss to Davis, for better or worse?

I wonder how we all arrive at our various conclusions.

Let me briefly offer mine.

Kerber, as we know, turned in a brilliant 2016 season and then did not have a lot of inspiration in 2017, when tennis often seemed to be a chore for her. She strongly rebounded in 2018, and she certainly performed well at Indian Wells this year, but this year has generally been a struggle.

If Kerber had previously shown the ability to stack together consecutive high-level seasons, I might question this performance against Davis to a greater extent. If she had only one major title instead of three, I know I would be a lot more critical of her. Under the circumstances, though — knowing how difficult her 2017 season was after riding high in 2016, and knowing she has won more majors than Victoria Azarenka and other notable players — I can look at this loss to Davis and say, “Well, this is not extraordinarily surprising.”

I completely respect anyone who would be more upset and/or disapproving in reaction to this loss, but I don’t find it that damning at all.

I do wonder how others think. Maybe this article fleshed out some details which will help you process this result.

Onward we go at Wimbledon, with many more losses waiting to be dissected.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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