Friday 27 April 2018

Crash Wednesday: Top seeds fall at Wimbledon as courts described as ‘dangerous’

Roger Federer of Switzerland reacts during his men's singles tennis match against Sergiy Stakhovsky
Roger Federer of Switzerland reacts during his men's singles tennis match against Sergiy Stakhovsky
Maria Sharapova of Russia slips during her women's singles tennis match against Michelle Larcher De Brito of Portugal

Kevin Garside

The All England Club leapt to the defence of Wimbledon courts described as dangerous after a record seven withdrawals in one day through injury.

The head count was led by defending champion Rodger Federer who tonight lost  6-7 (5/7) 7-6 (7/5) 7-5 7-6 (7/5) to Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky in the second round at Wimbledon. It ended a run of 36 consecutive grand slam quarter-final appearances by the Swiss player.

In terms of injuries, Steve Darcis, first round conqueror of Rafael Nadal, and no.2 seed Victoria Azarenka, who were forced out of the tournament after failing to recover from heavy first round falls.

Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki both required treatment after nasty tumbles during shock defeats on the same No.2 Court. Third seed Sharapova, who slipped in almost the same spot as Woznicaki, was heard on the BBC to complain to the umpire that “this court is dangerous” during her straight sets loss to qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito.

“I don’t think I have ever fallen three times in a match in my career before,” Sharapova said. “That’s not an excuse. It was the same for my opponent. But today I saw a few players take hits. It was a bit slippery on the outside. After I buckled my knee three times that (dangerous comment) was obviously my reaction. I’d be lying if I said you don’t think about that when you fall a lot. I rarely see myself on the ground like that.”

While some were already carrying injuries, Azarenka blamed her knee trauma, incurred while serving during her first round match against Maria Joao Koehler, directly on the surface of No.1 Court. “The court was not in a good condition,” she said. “My opponent fell twice and I fell badly on there. So did a lot of people after. I don't know if it's right or what. I can't figure it out. It would be great if someone from the All England Club exams it and tries to find the issue, to see what happened. There's nothing I've done wrong.”

In a statement, the All England Club said: “There have been no changes in the preparation of the courts and as far as we are aware the grass court surface is in excellent condition. In fact we believe that it is drier than last year when the prevailing conditions were cold and wet.”

The record for withdrawals at a major championship was set at the 2011 US Open when 17 players retired in the singles. The record at Wimbledon, set five years ago, stands at 13. Independent columnist Nick Bolletieri, said: “I've been to many grand slams and have not seen so many people pull out. These are big pull-outs too. It is unbelievable. Grass is going to be a topic of conversation. You just don't have these many injuries happening. It's all about footwork and balance and you are often wrong-footed. The grass being closely cropped means it is tough to get footing.”

Boris Becker was surprised that any might be surprised at the turn of events. He said: “The grass is slippery in the first couple of days and is going to be dangerous. It has been like this for the last 150 years. That is why it is important to play warm-up tournaments. That has always been the issue (insufficient time) between the French and Wimbledon. I understand that is soon going to change.”

Darcis injured his shoulder during one of many tumbles against Nadal and despite intensive treatment was unable to contest his second round match against Lukasz Kubot. “I started to feel it a little bit after the match. After a few more hours, I started to feel so much pain. I couldn't sleep that night. I saw the physio and doctor yesterday and they did a good job. Today it was a little bit better but I can't serve and I can't hit my shots.”

John Isner withdrew just two games into his match with Adrian Mannarino after feeling pain in his left leg while serving but stood back from blaming the court. “It could just be a coincidence. I didn’t feel anything in the warm-up, in the first two games of the match and then bam, felt it. I don’t think the surface had anything to do with it.”

Jo Wilfried-Tsonga, nursing a long-standing knee problem, withdrew at the end of the third set against Ernst Gulbis. Marin Cilic, carrying a knee injury from Queen’s, Radek Stepanek (hamstring) and Yaroslava Shvedova took the total number of withdrawals this week to ten.

Independent News Service

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