LONDON — Sloane Stephens couldn’t summon her Grand Slam magic this time around, losing 6-2, 7-6 (6) to No. 109 Maria Kirilenko in the first round of Wimbledon. This marks the first time that the American has lost to someone ranked lower than her at a Grand Slam.
The loss ended Stephens’ streak of making the second week at six consecutive Grand Slams, the longest active streak on the WTA. It was also the first time Stephens lost in the first round of a Slam since 2011, when she lost to Elena Baltacha in her Slam debut at the French Open. The loss, her fourth to a player ranked outside the top 100 this year, will likely drop her out of the top 20.
A former top 10 player, Kirilenko came into the match with just one main draw win in five matches this year after missing the first three months of the season with a knee injury. But the Russian, who made the quarterfinals here in 2012, played aggressive grass court tennis from the start and put Stephens on her heels.
Taking aggressive cuts on return and hugging the baseline to stay on top of the rallies, Kirilenko raced away with the first set by breaking Stephens twice in 35 minutes. Stephens rebounded in the second to earn an early break and lead 4-2 when Kirilenko broke back to 4-all. Serving to force a tiebreak, Stephens saved five match points and then led 6-4 in the tiebreak before losing the last four points of the match.