Wimbledon king Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova endured jolting second-round losses to opponents outside the world top 100 in a freakishly dramatic “Wednesday Wipeout” that saw seven players withdraw injured and the draw shredded.
Second seed Victoria Azarenka, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Steve Darcis, man-of-the-moment after his opening day victory over Spaniard Rafael Nadal, were among the casualties on Wednesday as the medical bulletins piled up.
When France’s Michael Llodra retired from his second-round match against Italian 23rd seed Andreas Seppi yesterday, the total number of pullouts rose to 11.
Llodra’s withdrawal allowed Seppi to book a third round clash against either Japan’s Kei Nishikori or Leonardo Mayer of Argentina.
However, five-time champion Serena Williams managed to avoid the title contender jinx by beating Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-2 yesterday to reach the third round.
The top-ranked Williams never looked in danger against the 100th-ranked French qualifier. Williams broke twice in each set to set up a match with Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm, who at 42 became the oldest woman to reach the third round in the Open era.
Date-Krumm beat Alexandra Cadantu of Romania 6-4, 7-5 to reach the third round for the first time since 1996, when she reached the semi-finals.
With title contenders dropping like flies, some before even striking a ball in anger, home favorite Andy Murray must be licking his lips after avoiding the scrapheap with an incident-free second-round win over Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun.
As seeded players fell in an undignified heap, the second-seeded Murray made sure his match would be shock-proof, defeating Lu in three straight sets.
“You have to make sure you are ready. Rafa’s result is a perfect example of that. You just can’t take anything for granted,” Murray told the Guardian newspaper prior to his match with Lu.
Murray certainly looked ready when he took the grass on Wednesday, threatening Lu in each service game and earning his points patiently in a 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 victory.
Lu afterward said his serve was off and that Murray deserved the victory because he played remarkably well, adding that the Scot adjusted quickly after he changed his hitting strategy in the third set in an attempt to throw Murray off.
The pair had played twice before, each winning once. Lu stunned Murray in the first round of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but Murray got his revenge in the Indian Wells tournament earlier this year.
Lu’s hope of redemption in the doubles ended yesterday after he and Lithuanian partner Ricardas Berankis lost in straight sets to Polish duo Tomasz Bednarek and Mateusz Kowalczyk in the first round.
However, there was good news for Taiwanese tennis fans as Hsieh Su-wei and her Chinese doubles partner Peng Shuai, seeded No. 8, won their first-round women’s doubles match on Wednesday.
Hsieh and Peng defeated Russians Vera Dushevina and Alexandra Panova in straight sets 7-5, 6-1 on Court 6, only hours after Hsieh suffered a disappointing loss in her second-round singles draw.
“I was very nervous. I didn’t prepare myself mentally to handle the pressure of facing a seeded player. I played horribly,” Hsieh told reporters after the match in which Alize Cornet of France, seeded 29, beat Hsieh 6-3, 6-2 to advance.
“I felt really good in practice during the days leading up to my singles match. Even my serves were very good, but my performance today wasn’t nearly half as good as during practice, which makes me very upset,” Hsieh wrote on Facebook.
Hsieh, who had 16 unforced errors in her defeat, admitted that her exit from the singles initially affected her performance in the doubles match.
“I let my poor performance carry into my doubles match, but I started to recover in the second set,” she wrote.
However, Hsieh said that Peng is in good form and encouraged her when she was nervous, which helped her recover.
Hsieh, currently ranked 16th in doubles, and Peng, 23rd, are hoping to win at Wimbledon and other Grand Slam events, Hsieh said.
Also to play yesterday was Taiwan’s last hope in the singles draw, Jimmy Wang, who will play Tommy Haas of Germany, the 13th-seed at Wimbledon, and Chan Hao-ching, who faced Jelena Jankovic and Mirjana Lucic-Baron with Spanish partner Anabel Medina Garrigues.
Also avoiding an early exit yesterday was China’s Li Na, who snapped out of a mid-match meltdown to beat in-form Romanian Simona Halep and reach the third round of Wimbledon.
The 31-year-old former French Open champion went through the motions as she surrendered the second set meekly, but recovered to win a curious match 6-2, 1-6, 6-0.
Halep, who had won 11 consecutive matches coming into Wimbledon, needed an injury time-out for treatment on her back at the end of the first set and the break seemed to rattle Li who committed a rash of errors in a woeful second set.
With coach Carlos Rodriguez watching on sternly, Li buckled down again and streaked ahead in the decider thanks to some heavy groundstrokes.
The sixth seed, whose best run at Wimbledon saw her reach the quarter-finals in 2006 and 2010, will face either Germany’s Annika Beck or Czech Klara Zakopalova in the third round.
After a day of slips, strained shoulders and aching knees, seven-times champion Federer was expected to glide serenely above the mayhem around him when he stepped out on Centre Court to play Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky.
Three hours later, on what former champion John McEnroe called “the craziest day ever,” the Swiss great’s dream of an eighth title was over.
Nadal’s first-round defeat by Darcis on Monday created shockwaves, but Wednesday’s seismic events went off the scale.
Ten seeds perished and the seven players to withdraw or retire mid-match was 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 Wednesday as a “very black day.”
Third-seed Sharapova was sent across the grounds to the bowl-like Court Two to face 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.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever fallen three times in a match before in my career, so that was a little strange,” the Russian former champion said.
Women’s ninth seed Caroline Wozniacki also fell 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,” she said. “I can’t figure it out it. Would be great if the club or somebody who takes care of the courts would examine [it].”
A tournament spokesman said “the surfaces at the start are always lusher than at the end,” while three-time former champion Boris Becker added “grass is always going to be slippery in the first couple of matches, that has been the case for the past 100-plus years.”