Wimbledon hit by spate of injuries
Originally published on: 26/06/13 00:00
Azarenka felt unable to compete after failing to recover from a knee injury, while Tsonga retired from his second-round match against Ernests Gulbis with a similar problem. Petra Kvitova was handed a free pass into the third round when her opponent Yaroslava Shvedova withdrew with an arm injury.
Rafael Nadal’s conqueror Steve Darcis joined the list of casualties as he was forced to pull out with a shoulder problem, while Marin Cilic also withdrew with a knee injury as John Isner and Radek Stepanek retired hurt.
Azarenka, one of the favourites for the title at the All England Club, played through the pain of a knee injury after suffering a nasty fall during her first-round victory over Maria Joao Koehler on Monday. However, just moments before she was due on Centre Court for her second round match against Flavia Pennetta, the Belarusian handed her opponent the walkover.
"I tried to practise today a little bit to see if it's going to warm up or with the treatment get better," Azarenka said. "It just didn't; [it] just got worse.
'We tried to do everything possible, but it was a very significant fall. To recover in two days after that seems impossible with the compensation on the entire body by finishing that match."
Tsonga, a two-time semi-finalist at Wimbledon, had won the first set against his Latvian opponent, but received treatment for a knee injury as Gulbis hit back to win the second set. Clearly in some discomfort, Tsonga threw in the towel, trailing 3-6 6-3 6-3.
"I have a little problem with my tendon on my knee," Tsonga said. "I had this like five, six days. [It's] not really a good sign because I had already some problem with this tendon.
"I know when it's going worse and worse like this that it's not really good for me to play on because I know I will do more damage so for me it was better to stop."
Meanwhile, Darcis, who handed Nadal his first defeat in the opening round of a Grand Slam on Monday, failed to take to the court for his second-round match against Lukasz Kubot after suffering a shoulder injury.
“It happened against Rafa in the middle of the first set when I fell down,” Darcis said. “A few hours after the match I started to feel so much pain, I couldn't sleep. I saw the physio, the doctor, yesterday.
“It's a little bit better today but [there is] no chance I can play. I cannot serve. Even on the forehand side, I cannot hit a ball. Make no sense to go on the court to withdraw after two games.”
Isner did just that when he suffered a knee injury in the opening game of his second round match against Adrian Mannarino.
“Third point of the match, I just go to serve, and I think it was as I landed,” Isner said. “I always serve and land on my left leg, like I have done 20 million times playing this game, and this is the first time I just felt this, like, sharp pain.
“It didn't pop. It just grabbed like really badly, and I knew I was in serious trouble then. I knew at that point it was not likely I was going to be able to play. I just can't bend my knee.”
Cilic, who said he was unable to put any weight on his left leg after having difficulties with his knees, described the spate of withdrawals as unfortunate but refused to blame the playing surface at the All England Club.
"I would say very black day," he said. "The other days, other weeks, there were no pull outs. I mean, everything just happened today. [It's] difficult to say what the explanation is. But everything is related to individual. [It's] difficult to say what the real issue is."
Veteran Radek Stepanek was also forced to quit his second-round match against No.24 seed Jerzy Janowicz. The Pole led 6-2 5-3 when Stepanek retired with a hamstring injury. Caroline Wozniacki also received treatment on an ankle injury during her 6-2 6-2 to Petra Cetkovska.
In a statement, All England Club chief executive Richard Lewis sympathised with the stricken players but maintained the playing surface was not to blame.
“There has been a high number of withdrawals at The Championships today and we sympathise with all the players affected," Lewis said. "The withdrawals have occurred for a variety of reasons, but there has been some suggestion that the court surface is to blame. We have no reason to think this is the case. Indeed, many players have complimented us on the very good condition of the courts.
“The court preparation has been to exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years and it is well known that grass surfaces tend to be more lush at the start of an event. The factual evidence, which is independently checked, is that the courts are almost identical to last year, as dry and firm as they should be, and we expect them to continue to play to their usual high quality.”