The All England Club’s medical rooms were overflowing as the third day of Wimbledon resembled a casualty ward with Rafael Nadal’s conqueror Steve Darcis one of five players to withdraw injured before mid-afternoon yesterday.
Darcis, who sent shockwaves around the tennis world on Monday with a first-round demolition of Nadal, was in good company with women’s second seed Victoria Azarenka unable to take to the Centre Court to face Italy’s Flavia Pennetta.
US marathon man John Isner, whose longest-ever tennis match is Wimbledon folklore, lasted only two games before his knee buckled against Adrian Mannarino.
Czech veteran Radek Stepanek then quit with a hamstring injury while trailing powerful Pole Jerzy Janowicz 6-2, 5-3, meaning the first three men’s second-round results of the day were decided by walkovers or retirements.
Men’s 10th seed Marin Cilic added to the injury list when he withdrew before his second-round match against Frenchman Kenny De Schepper.
The 29-year-old Darcis, who had been due to face Pole Lukasz Kubot, said he had injured his right shoulder in the heat of battle against Nadal.
Australian Open champion Azarenka was scheduled to open play on Centre Court, but withdrew as fans were taking their seats having failed to recover from the knee injury she sustained when slipping against Maria Joao Koehler on Monday.
Azarenka said an MRI scan had not revealed a torn ligament and that she had tried to practice before yesterday’s match with Pennetta.
Organizers quickly had to fill the gap left by Azarenka’s withdrawal, switching former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic to Centre Court for her match against reigning Wimbledon junior champion Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, but the 12th-seeded Serb’s upgrade did little for her performance as she lost 6-3, 6-3.
The biggest irony of the day was 18th seed Isner’s painful exit. The American, who beat Frenchman Nicolas Mahut in an 11-hour-five-minute epic in 2010, suddenly grabbed his left knee after a serve in the opening game.
After receiving attention he battled on for a while but threw down his racket at 1-1 and shook hands with Mannarino.
By contrast, defending champion Roger Federer looked a picture of health when he sauntered through the main gates holding the hands of his twin daughters.
The Swiss was to face Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky later on Centre Court while British eyes were also to be trained on Court One, where home favorite Andy Murray faces Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun.
Maria Sharapova, whose route to the final now looks clearer after Azarenka’s misfortune, was due on Court Two against Portugal’s Michelle Larcher de Brito.
In the games not cut short by injury, Lleyton Hewitt was dumped out by German qualifier Dustin Brown, the dreadlocked former Jamaica player, ending the 2002 champion’s hopes of an impressive comeback run.
Brown, whose fluid style and range of shots won him fans on Court 2, beat the Australian veteran 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 6-2 in the second round clash.
On Tuesday, Taiwan’s Jimmy Wang advanced to the second round of the men’s singles at Wimbledon for the third time in his career, after surviving a nearly four-hour marathon and a match point against him.
Wang, who needed to qualify to reach the main draw, defeated fellow qualifier Wayne Odesnik of the US 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 to set up a second-round tussle with 13th seed Tommy Haas of Germany today.