There were bigger stories on Day 1 at Wimbledon — and I will write about them — but first, let’s be sure to include a word about Marketa Vondrousova. It is not criticism or disapproval, merely a gentle note about the larger reality embodied by her loss to Madison Brengle on Monday at the All England Club.
Vondrousova, as you know, made the semifinals of Roland Garros. Her quick exit from this tournament underscores a simple but potent point about the landscape of the WTA at the major tournaments: One major’s results don’t carry over to the next one — not since the start of 2017, at any rate.
When Serena Williams took time off the tour to deal with childbirth and then motherhood, the WTA lost its most consistent and reliable major-tournament player. Post-childbirth Serena isn’t (and moreover, should not be expected to become) that same presence. Women’s tennis features tremendous depth, which will be on display Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in the loaded top half of the draw. However, the bottom half — which was in action on Monday and will play on Wednesday and Friday of this week — is extremely wide open in part because its players, though luminously talented, have not yet attained a high level of reliability from one important tournament to the next.
Vondrousova — who, I must quickly clarify, should never have been expected to achieve much at Wimbledon — fits into that larger pattern of doing well in one big-stage moment and not doing well the next. This dynamic is especially worth noting at this point on the calendar, when players have to change surfaces quickly. Moving from Roland Garros to grass season is the most difficult quick-change portion of the tennis year, given that the shift to grass season involves preparation for a major tournament. There is a month and a half between the end of Wimbledon and the start of the U.S. Open. There are only three weeks between the end of the French Open and the start of Wimbledon. Players have to refocus. It’s not easy. Learning how to handle that transition comes with time.
Vondrousova, who made the Roland Garros final as a teenager and just turned 20, will need some years to handle this change in seasons. Her loss to Brengle is not a bad one — an expected loss cannot be bad, in my opinion. Vondrousova is a clever tennis player who, in time, should be a lot more resourceful when she comes to Wimbledon. This was always going to be a tough turnaround after playing two full weeks in Paris. It is quite clear that I assign no negative meaning to her — or her career — as a result of Monday’s outcome.
The main takeaway is simply that transferring results and form across major tournaments and the different surfaces they are played on remains very challenging for the WTA at the moment. Look at Jelena Ostapenko, who made the quarterfinals or better in each of the last two years at Wimbledon but then lost in round one on Monday, 2 and 2, to Hsieh Su-Wei.
Carrying results forward is a massive task in 2019 women’s tennis.
This is a theme worth monitoring for the rest of the Wimbledon fortnight.