Well you can't say I didn't warn you.
There are so many storylines here that it's hard to keep track. Let's first put this loss, which was a bad bad loss, in perspective. Since winning her maiden Grand Slam at RG in May, Ana had played five matches coming into the tournament. Five matches in three months. During that three months she had two weeks of post RG promotional/rest responsibilities, two weeks post Wimbly vacation, and then when she hit the court in Mallorca, she busted her hand. That hand injury basically forced her off the court for almost a month. During that month she was all over the globe (Europe to Montreal to Italy to Beijing to Australia to NYC) keeping her tournament commitments and trying to figure out what the heck was up with her hand. And she was only able to practice pain free a week ago. Anyone who watched her first round match against Dushevina can attest to the fact that she was "rusty" to put it kindly. And lastly, let's not forget that Ana has never played particularly well here. Her best result was the fourth round last year. It's a weird quirk (she should rock the hard courts) but it's fact.
So that's why at the end of the day, this isn't an earth shattering loss. Maria's loss to Alla Kudraywhatever at Wimbledon was more shocking. Serena's loss to Srebotnik at RG was more shocking. Heck, Ana's loss to Zheng at Wimbledon was more shocking than this one. And you can tell because no one around tennis really seems shocked. Disappointed, sure. Shocked, no. As Jim Courier said tonight, Ana came in "undercooked" and interestingly, he gave credit to her for even showing up and playing. Tracy Austin was similarly low-key about it, basically reiterating that she was understandably rusty.
But again, this was a bad bad loss. Baby Elephant gets the glorious distinction of getting dumped out of a Grand Slam by the lowest seeded player in history. She will forever be known as the #1 player who lost to a qualifier ranked #188 in the world in the second round of a Grand Slam. A player, Julie Coin, who had never even played in a WTA tour event, let alone a Grand Slam.
And hey, let's tip our collective caps to Julie Coin. She played remarkably well and though she had her nervy patches (double faulting match point!), she held it together and gutted it out. That wasn't hard. I kept telling my friend during the third set, "Come on, she's gotta blink, right?" Well, she did and Ana didn't capitalize (2-2, triple break point!), and she came back to break and eventually serve it out. That is not easy. If Ana plays an 18 year old qualifier, I don't think she loses this match. But Coin is 25, played at Clemson, and is on a bit of a hot streak. She wasn't going to buckle.
Ana now has three weeks to practice and prepare for the Pan Pacific Open. She doesn't need to win the Pan Pacific to re-establish herself. What she needs to do is start the indoor season playing quality tennis. The results will come. Remember, she'll be going into the PPO still with no match play.
And that's the thing. It's not that I want Ana to win. That's not the point. I want her to have those matches that remind us why she deserves to be discussed along with Serena, Masha, and now Dinara, as the elite of the game who deserve the #1 spot. It's about the quality of play, not the result. If she plays like she was playing in the beginning of the season (AO, IW, RG), the boos and laughing will stop. Remember, it took Masha two years before she won her second Slam.
So that's my State of the Baby Elephant address. Very disappointing and we Ana fans will have to endure much mocking in the next few days. But have faith, people. Have faith.