Berdych joins the sick list as ill-fated Slam starts to reel

Record set for mid-match retirements after Czech suffers a recurrence of shoulder injury

Flushing Meadows

At this rate they will soon be calling it the Sicknote Slam. The retirements yesterday of Tomas Berdych and Marcel Granollers made this US Open the most illness and injury-ravaged Grand Slam event in the Open era.

With another week of the tournament to go, the third-round departures of the Czech and the Spaniard brought the number of mid-match retirements to 14. The previous record of 12 was set at the 2003 Australian Open and at Wimbledon in 2008.

Berdych, who pulled out when trailing Janko Tipsarevic 6-4 5-0, would have been a contender for the title on recent form, but the world No 9 has been troubled by a shoulder injury since last month's Cincinnati Masters, where he beat Roger Federer in the quarter-finals but had to retire midway through his semi-final against Novak Djokovic.

"I felt it in the end of the second set with Roger in Cincinnati," Berdych said. "I was kind of lucky to finish that match and close it out in two sets. Then when I started against Novak it was pretty much the same as today."

Granollers retired with an abdominal muscle injury when his fellow Spaniard, Juan Carlos Ferrero, was leading 6-1 4-3. It was desperately bad luck on the world No 32, who had played in 16 previous Grand Slam tournaments without reaching the third round.

Federer, who beat Marin Cilic 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-2, was shocked by the number of retirements. He said that, in general, too many players quit when they could carry on. "Could some guys finish the matches?" he said. "I'm sure, but they didn't decide to. For me it is shocking to see so many retirements.

"I have never retired in my whole life except once when I played against Blake in Paris, but I didn't even walk on to the court. For me it doesn't matter how bad I'm feeling, I will be out there and giving it a try, because you never know what's going to happen."

Federer is playing in his 48th consecutive Grand Slam tournament, having appeared in every one since the 1999 US Open. His latest victory put him in the fourth round of a Grand Slam event for the 30th time in a row. It also booked his place in the end-of-year World Tour Finals in London, for which Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal had already qualified.

As well as the retirements, four players have withdrawn from the tournament before their matches. It is no surprise that Murray is spending as little time as possible on site in the hope that he does not catch anything. "I make sure that I use the hand sanitisers," Murray said. "I'm getting towels all the time if I'm stretching up in the gym on the mats and I'm not touching the bikes and stuff."

Vania King looked as though she might join the retirees when she had her left thigh heavily strapped against Caroline Wozniacki in the opening match in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The 22-year-old American soldiered on before losing 6-2 6-4.

Jelena Jankovic, who has been suffering with a back injury, was beaten 6-4 6-4 by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, while Francesca Schiavone received treatment after suffering breathing difficulties during her 5-7 7-6 6-3 victory over South Africa's Chanelle Scheepers in a match that lasted three minutes short of three hours.

Serena Williams, the favourite for the women's title, overcame her hardest test so far, beating Victoria Azarenka 6-1 7-6. Azarenka won only eight points in the first five games, but the world No 5 made a fight of it in the second set before losing the tie-break 7-5.

Two British pairs are in the last 16 of the men's doubles. Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins enjoyed their best victory since joining forces this year when they beat Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor, who are ranked No 3 in the world, 6-3 7-5. They now play the Spaniards Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez. Jamie Delgado and Jonathan Marray beat the Brazilians Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares, No 11 in the world, 6-2 6-1. Their next opponents are the No 12-ranked Poles, Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski.

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