It was all pain and no gain for Victoria Azarenka on Wednesday as the Belorussian’s Wimbledon odyssey ended with a bruised and battered knee before her second round match on Centre Court.
The Australian Open champion was scheduled to face Flavia Panetta but the fans were still filing in when the PA announcer said: “Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Victoria Azarenka has had to withdraw due to an injury.”
The All England Club’s medical rooms were overflowing, with Rafael Nadal’s conqueror Steve Darcis one of the players to withdraw injured before mid-afternoon on Wednesday.
Also withdrawing was No.10 seed Marin Cilic, who was scheduled to meet Kenny de Schepper.
Withdrawals apart, there were a host of retirements too: sixth seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga quit while trailing Ernests Gulbis two sets to one. The 28-year-old Tsonga, a semifinalist in 2012, needed a medical time-out to have his left knee taped just after he had dropped the second set 6-3. Tsonga had won the first set, 6-3.
But when he dropped the third set 6-3, he gave up.
American marathon man John Isner, whose longest-ever tennis match is part of 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 Jerzy Janowicz 6-2, 5-3, meaning the first three men’s second round results of the day were decided by walkovers or retirements.
Amidst the retirements and withdrawals — there were five mid-way through Wednesday — two former World No.1s were knocked out.
Lleyton Hewitt was dumped out by qualifier Dustin Brown, the dreadlocked player winning 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-2. Brown, 28, the World No.189, will be playing in his first Grand Slam third round match where he will face World No.111 Mannarino.
Former women's No.1 Ana Ivanovic was knocked out by Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard, the reigning Wimbledon girls’ champion. The 12th seeded Serb, who made the semifinals in 2007, was beaten 6-3, 6-3 by the 19-year-old.
Also, Eighth seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and Julian Knowle defeated Leonardo Mayer and Alberto Ramos 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2 to move to the second round of the men’s doubles event.
Bhupathi and Knowle now meet Nicholas Monroe and Germany’s Simon Stadler, who had beaten Divij Sharan and Purav Raja in the first round.
Canada’s Bouchard showed no signs of being intimidated against Ivanovic, a former Roland Garros champion, and even a last minute switch to Centre Court couldn’t throw her off her game.
“I played on the main court at the French Open against Sharapova, and it was the same thing here,” she said.
“I was like, ‘I’ve done this before. No big deal.’ But, for sure, just the more time I get on these big courts helps me in my future matches.
“I played Court One in the junior final last year and I think that helped a little bit. I definitely was calm and felt like I could do this against Ivanovic. It worked out.
“I believed I belonged there and believed I could play with her.”
Ivanovic admitted it was her first glimpse of Bouchard and she was impressed with the youngster’s potential.
“She was tracking the ball really well, serving well, and she played a great match,” Ivanovic said.
“I thought maybe at end she would get tight, but she was really strong the whole way through.
“If she can continue in this manner she has a bright future. She's young but she has great potential.”
The collective groan that buzzed around the court was nothing compared to the anguish going through Azarenka’s mind after she suffered the injury in a first-round match on Monday.
“I couldn’t be any more disappointed. I love playing here,” said the crestfallen 23-year-old, who reached the semifinals in 2011 and 2012.
“To not be able to kind of play just because of... such bad luck is very, very frustrating. I couldn’t be more disappointed.”
Azarenka, who had romped to a 6-1, 1-0 lead against Portugal's Maria Joao Koehler on Monday when she had a nasty fall, bemoaned her luck and blamed the abrupt end to her Wimbledon campaign on a “slippery court.”
Although Azarenka managed to limp through the rest of the match, walking gingerly between points, to win 6-1, 6-2, the adrenaline that carried her through the pain barrier two days ago could not be called upon for another miracle.
“It was pretty obvious it was a very bad fall. To recover in two days after that seems impossible... 48 hours just made it worse,” said Azarenka. “It’s kind of a bone bruise.”
The one consolation for Azarenka was that an MRI scan showed she had not suffered any torn ligaments, although that still failed to lift her mood.
“Right now, I don’t see anything positive as of today because I’m disappointed extremely,” she said.
“I'm pretty lucky that what happened to me is not critical. Could be, because after the fall the doctors saw and they are surprised that I'm even able to get up.”
Asked if the ordeal had made her afraid of grass, Azarenka replied: “My biggest fear is heights, not grasscourts or anything else. And spiders.”
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 on Monday.
“It happened against Rafa in the middle of the first set when I fell down,” the Belgian told a news conference.
“I started to feel it a little bit. When it was warm, it was okay. I had no pain. After a few games, I was feeling great.
“After the match, a few hours after, I start to feel so much pain, I couldn't sleep the night,” he added.
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. — Agencies