Wimbledon safety in question after spate of injuries
Courts criticised as Azarenka and Tsonga among host of players forced to pull out
Wimbledon's famed grass courts were at the centre of a safety storm yesterday after Victoria Azarenka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Steve Darcis, the conqueror of Rafael Nadal, John Isner, Marin Cilic and Radek Stepanek were all forced out with injury.
World number two and Australian Open champion Azarenka withdrew just minutes before she was due on Centre Court to face Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta for a place in the third round.
A right knee injury, suffered in a fall during her first round win over Maria Joao Koehler of Portugal on Monday which left her in tears and requiring 10 minutes of treatment, put paid to her hopes after an MRI scan showed extensive bruising to the knee.
Her fall happened on Court One, the same arena where Darcis knocked out Nadal. Darcis also took a painful tumble, causing the right shoulder injury which forced him to withdraw.
"The court was not in a very good condition that day. My opponent fell twice; I fell badly; there were some other people who fell after," said Azarenka, a semi-finalist in the last two years.
"It would be great if the club or somebody who takes care of the court would examine or try to find an issue so that wouldn't happen. There is nothing I've done wrong that cost me to just withdraw from Wimbledon."
Darcis, the world number 135, admitted he was devastated after being forced to pull out.
"I think when you beat a guy like Rafa in the first round, you want to show more, you want to play more matches. I was playing maybe the best tennis in my life here," he said. "So not to go on the court today, it's the biggest disappointment I have had."
America's Isner, famous for winning the longest match in history at Wimbledon in 2010, pulled out after just two games of his second round tie against France's Adrian Mannarino.
"I just went to serve, and it was as I landed on my left leg, like I have done 20 million times playing this game. I just felt this sharp pain," said 18th seeded Isner.
Cilic, the runner-up to Andy Murray at Queens last week, was due to face France's Kenny de Schepper for a last-32 place. "It's a very black day," said Cilic.
Two former world number ones were knocked out: Lleyton Hewitt by German qualifier Dustin Brown, and Ana Ivanovic by Canada's Eugenie Bouchard, the reigning Wimbledon girls' champion.