Maria Sharapova today branded the Wimbledon court ‘dangerous’ as she crashed out of the tournament on another day of shocks.
The Russian third seed lost 6-3 6-4 to Portugal’s Michelle Larcher de Brito in the second round at Wimbledon. The world No 131 caused a shock in one of the noisiest matches to have been played at the All England Club.
Sharapova continually struggled to keep her footing and complained to an umpire that the court was ‘dangerous’ as she exited the tournament on a day of drama which will go down in the record books for the most retirements/walkovers on the same day of a Grand Slam event in the Open.
Her criticisms were supported by second seed Victoria Azarenka, who withdrew from the tournament after failing to recover from a knee injury sustained in her first-round victory over against Maria Joao Koehler. The Belorussian pulled out of her Centre Court match today with Flavia Pennetta and was also angry about the condition of the courts.
“The court was not in a good condition,” she said. “My opponent fell twice and I fell badly on there [Court No1]. 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.”
Tournament officials denied that the grass of Wimbledon may be a factor in the unusual rush of injuries as an All England Club spokesman said: “There has been no change to the way we prepare the courts.”
Former British number one Tim Henman also defended the state of the surface, telling the BBC: “The courts are in the same shape they always have been. It's bizarre how all these injuries are happening this year.
”I'm as interested as everyone else as to why there have been so many injuries as the courts are in fantastic shape.“
Former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker blamed the preparation by players.
With just two weeks between the end of the French Open on the red clay of Paris and the start of Wimbledon, players have a slender window to get used to the grass.
"A short grass-court season is definitely part of the problem with the injuries," the German told the BBC.
"Grass-court tennis is different to other surfaces, it is only two weeks of action after a long clay-court season. Players need to give themselves more of chance. The grass is the same."
Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki went to ground during her loss to Petra Cetkovska and taped her ankles throughout.
She would not go as far as blaming the court, though: "I think it's very difficult to say because I played my first match. Obviously, I slipped on the match point in my first match, too.
"I don't know if it's the courts or if it's just us or if it's the gripping is different. I'm not sure.
"You always know that grass is more slippery than other surfaces. You're prepared for that. But accidents happen sometimes on court. It's part of sports. You can't really do much about it. It's an intense sport.
"Once you slip and once you feel pain you're obviously more careful. You can't really run the same balls down. It's very difficult for me to say if it's different or not.
"But things happen. I've rolled my ankles on hard court, on clay. So it's not like you can really point a finger on exactly what happened."
Sharapova won the title nine years ago but this time around exited in the second round. Until now De Brito has been best known for her loud high-pitch screech, but today she showed her on-court credentials by outplaying the four-time Grand Slam champion on Court Two. Sharapova did not go down quietly, though.
Azarenka (knee) was one of eight players who pulled out injured today, including Jo-Wilfred Tsonga (knee and wrist problems), the men’s No.6 seed, Marin Cilic (knee), Steve Darcis (shoulder), John Isner (knee), Radek Stepanek (thigh) and Yaroslava Shvedova (arm).
While Cilic said he carried his knee injury into the tournament, several players blamed the courts, notably Azarenka.
There had been question marks about her continued involvement in the tournament after limping her way to victory in her first match following a nasty fall while serving.
She did the splits on the slippery surface and slumped to the ground, clutching her right knee and sobbing on the court surface.
Along with Sharapova, Azarenka, the two-time Australian Open champion and twice a semi-finalist at Wimbledon, was seen as the only realistic obstacle to Williams’ continued dominance of the women’s game.
An MRI scan following the match on Monday showed no ligament or tendon damage and Azarenka said that the bruising she sustained would most likely clear up in the next 48 hours.
However, after practising this morning, she found the pain too and withdrew.
Of her mental state, she said: “I couldn’t be more disappointed. Wimbledon is a tournament I was so looking forward to. To not be able to play, I could not be more disappointed.”
Asked if she felt she was in the shape to win the title, she added: “Yes, I think so. I was playing well. I was in shape. I just couldn’t prevent something like that happening.”
French sixth seed Tsonga retired due to injury during his Wimbledon second-round match against Latvian Ernests Gulbis.
Darcis, the first-round vanquisher of Rafael Nadal, was also a casualty after failing to shake off a right injury complaint picked up in the win of his career against the French Open champion.
10th-seed Cilic exited after an injury to his left knee.
Meanwhile, No.18 Isner, tipped as a potential dangerman by Andy Murray withdrew, just 15 minutes into his match against Adrian Mannarino with a knee problem while former Wimbledon quarter-finalist Stepanek will play no further part because of a thigh complaint.
Darcis had become the darling of day one by producing one of the biggest shocks in recent Wimbledon history by beating world No5 Nadal 7-6, 7-6, 6-4.
The Belgian been scheduled to play Poland’s Lukasz Kubot in the third match on Court 17 but, despite the work of his physiotherapist, he failed to overcome his shoulder complaint and withdrew from the rest of the tournament a few hours before he was due out on court.
The player nicknamed ‘the Shark’, sporting a tattoo of the animal on his injured shoulder, speculated he had picked up the injury while falling during the first set of his match against the Spaniard.
“I started to feel it a little bit,” he said after announcing his forced exit. “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.”
There was some consolation for Darcis, a player more recently used to playing in challenger events, in that he pocketed £38,000 for his victory over Nadal and he admitted in time he would be able to look back on the tournament favourably.
“Right now, I’m not so happy,” he said. “It’s so tough to go out like this. It’s not happy memories right now.
“I think when you beat a guy like Rafa in the first round, you want to show more, to play more matches. I was playing maybe the best tennis of my life here. Not going on court today is maybe the biggest disappointment I’ve had.”
Isner made his way into the record books for playing the longest match in Wimbledon history but today was involved in one of the shortest contests ever.
The American, who famously beat Nicolas Mahut in 11 hours and six minutes in 2010, retired from his second-round match after quarter of an hour.
The 28-year-old managed just two games before a knee injury at 1-1 force him to retire on Court 3 despite a 10-minute treatment break and some heavy strapping.
Victoria Azarenka: Pennetta received a bye to the next round as the second-seeded Azarenka failed to shake off a knee injury suffered when slipping on court on Monday.
Steve Darcis: Nadal's conqueror was unable to take on Kubot owing to a shoulder injury which he suffered when making a diving shot against the Spaniard in the first round.
Radek Stepanek: A thigh injury caused Stepanek a problem as he took on the big-hitting Jerzy Janowicz, causing him to abandon in the second set.
John Isner: The big-serving American called time on his meeting with Mannarino after just two games, after suffering discomfort from a knee injury.
Marin Cilic: The Croatian cited long-standing problems with his knees as the reason behind his failure to face De Schepper.
Jo-Wilfred Tsonga: The popular Frenchman won his opener against Gulbis but had to walk off court at two sets to one down having suffered knee and wrist injuries.
Yaroslava Shvedova: An arm injury put paid to the Kazakh's challenge against the 2011 winner Kvitova, as their match was cancelled.