They came, they played, they fell. One by one at Wimbledon, neither the big hitters nor the lowest rankers were spared from the curse of the turf at the All England Club during a surreal Day 3.
Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova were the biggest names to fall, but the body countwas a record on "Wounded Wednesday", as it was quickly dubbed. Seven players were forced to withdraw, including the No 2 women's seed Victoria Azarenka, and the No 6 and No 18 men's seeds Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and John Isner.
As fans winced at the painful-looking contortions the players were pulling, many were asking whether the All England Club would investigate why so many had fallen foul of its perfectly-manicured grass.
Was it down to a freakish coincidence? The wrong shoes? Or perhaps an international conspiracy? Predictably, the Twitter hashtag "Slippygrass" marked the point as everyone began to weigh in.
The US coach Nick Bollettieri, who was shocked by the withdrawals, said: "I've been too 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."
Former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker added: "A short grass court season is definitely part of the problem with the injuries. 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, the groundsman is the same."
Maria Sharapova slipped three times during her Court Two clash, eventually losing to Michelle Larcher De Brito, and was seen to mouth the words "this court is dangerous" to an official. In her post-match interview, she said: "I don't think I've ever fallen three times in a match before in my career … but I can't blame the court."
Wimbledon officials insisted the courts had been prepared in the same way as previous years. They were changed in 2001 to 100 per cent perennial ryegrass to improve durability and to minimise wear and tear.
But veteran groundsman Eddie Seaward, who retired last year, admitted in an interview in 2012 that new groundsman Neil Stubley would have a hard task ahead of him.
"At the end of the Olympics, my successor will have a month less time to prepare the grass for the 2013 Championships, and to do the renovation programme," he said.
An injury saw Azarenka pull out just before play was about to start in her Centre Court clash. Asked if she had noticed anything different with the courts this year, the 23-year-old said: "I'm wondering the same question, because the court was not in a very good condition on Monday."
She added: "My opponent fell twice; I fell badly; there were some other people who fell after. So I don't know if it's the court or the weather.
"It would be great if the club or somebody who takes care of the court just would examine or try to find an issue so that wouldn't happen. Because on something like this, there is nothing I could have done to make that better."
‘Dreddy’ Dustin ‘cried like girl’ after victory
When a despondent Lleyton Hewitt commented on Dustin Brown, the player who sent him home in straight sets at Wimbledon, you couldn’t be entirely certain whether he was talking about the player’s game or his lifestyle: “He’s very flashy – I wouldn’t say orthodox.”
The 28-year-old German-born Jamaica-raised player, who is ranked 189th in the world and had only once won a main-draw match at a grand slam before, is anything but ordinary. Until 2009, the dreadlocked music-lover travelled to matches in his beloved VW Camper Van.
In the usually dreary post-match address, Brown sported a large white Rasta beanie hat and T-shirt with his own face printed on the front and the word “Dreddy” underneath, admitting that at the end of his game against Hewitt – which he won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-2 – he had “cried like a little girl”.Reuse content