June 26, 2013

Black Wednesday sees Wimbledon wipeouts

Federer, Sharapova top list of leading lights who tasted defeat on grass

LONDON — Wimbledon king Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova endured jolting second-round losses to opponents outside the world top 100 in a dramatic “Wednesday Wipeout” that saw seven players withdraw injured and the draw shredded.

Second seed Victoria Azarenka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and even Steve Darcis — man of the moment after his opening-day victory over Rafa Nadal — were among the casualties.

With contenders dropping like flies, Andy Murray must be licking his lips after an incident-free second round win over Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Victoria Azarenka (Reuters)

Murray’s hopes of emerging as “last man standing” to claim his first Wimbledon crown have soared after two rounds which have culled Nadal, Federer and sixth-seeded Tsonga from his half of the draw.

Seven-time champion Federer was expected to glide serenely above the mayhem around him.

Three hours later, his dream of an eighth title was over. Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky, ranked No 116 in the world, won 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5) to snap third seed Federer’s streak of reaching 36 consecutive grand slam quarter-finals.

“I’m still in disbelief,” Stakhovsky said. “When you play Roger Federer, it’s like you’re playing two persons. First you play Roger Federer, then you play his ego. I played the best tennis I have ever played.”

There was an “end of an era” feel as the 31-year-old Federer walked off the Centre Court to a standing ovation. “It’s normal that after all of a sudden losing early after being in the quarters 36 times, people feel it’s different,” he defiantly told a news conference.

Ten seeds perished yesterday, and the seven players to withdraw or retire mid-match was a record for a single day at a grand slam.

Croatian 10th seed Marin Cilic, who could not take to the court to play France’s Kenny De Schepper after a knee injury flared up, described yesterday as a “very black day”.

Third-seed Sharapova faced Portuguese firebrand Michelle Larcher de Brito and found the 131st-ranked qualifier too hot to handle as she slipped and slid to a 6-3, 6-4 defeat.

Sharapova needed a 10-minute injury timeout after one of several falls left her clutching her hip and at one stage was overheard describing the court surface as “dangerous”.

Women’s ninth seed Caroline Wozniacki also fell heavily on Court Two in her defeat by Czech Petra Cetkovska, while second seed Azarenka did not even start against Italy’s Flavia Pennetta due to the knee injury she suffered in a first-round tumble.

“I don’t know if it’s the court or the weather,” the Belarussian told reporters. “I can’t figure it out it.”

Tsonga did not blame the surface for a knee injury that forced him to stop against Latvian Ernests Gulbis, while Czech Radek Stepanek had to quit with a hamstring injury while trailing Poland’s Jerzey Janowicz.

And two days after the biggest win of his career over Nadal, Darcis’ tournament ended with a whimper as the shoulder he hurt in a fall against the Spaniard made it too painful to face Poland’s Lukasz Kubot.

Even American John Isner was struck down. The 18th seed played 183 games to beat Nicolas Mahut in 2010 but lasted only two before his knee buckled and he quit against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

“That’s sport,” home favourite Murray said of the chaotic day. “You can fall down the stairs, trip over your shoelaces. Who knows?” 

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