Tennis has never seen a day of defeats and defections like what happened at Wimbledon, when seven-time winner Roger Federer joined former champions Maria Sharapova and Lleyton Hewitt as second-round casualties.
A wayward backhand that sailed wide on Centre Court sealed the fate of Federer, the defending champion from Switzerland, who was beaten by unseeded Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-5), 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) at the All England Club in southwest London yesterday. Stakhovsky is ranked 116th by the men’s ATP Tour.
“Can’t have ’em all,” Federer, 31, who was seeded third, told reporters after his historic run of 36 straight major quarterfinals ended. “It was a tough loss.”
The departure of Federer -- a 17-time major singles champion -- came two days after two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal was upset in the first round by Steve Darcis, a Belgian ranked No. 135 in the world. Never before in a major have both Nadal and Federer lost at such an early stage.
Stakhovsky rushed to the net nearly 100 times against Federer.
“He brought back the serve-and-volley,” Bud Collins, a broadcaster and tennis historian for more than 40 years, said in an interview at Wimbledon. “What a day.”
Federer’s loss, his earliest at Wimbledon since 2002, ended a day on which six top-10 seeds in the men’s and women’s singles draws exited the tournament. That’s the worst day for top-10 seeds in any of the four majors during the first week, according to the International Tennis Federation.
Seven players -- including No. 6 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France and No. 10 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia among the men and women’s No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus -- left the world’s most famous tennis tournament because of injuries. That’s the most in a single day in a major since tennis turned professional, according to the ITF.
Including the defeat of Ana Ivanovic, players who lost or dropped out yesterday have won a total of 26 Grand Slam singles titles.
Top seeds Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Serena Williams of the U.S. are scheduled for second-round matches today.
Sharapova was upset 6-4, 6-3 on Court 2 yesterday by Michelle Larcher de Brito, a qualifier from Portugal.
Sharapova, the 2004 champion from Russia, struggled with her footing on the grass, shouting “How many times?” after she slipped in the first set. She had a nine-minute medical timeout for treatment of her thigh and hips during the second set. Earlier in the day, Caroline Wozniacki, a Danish player formerly ranked No. 1 in the world, twisted her ankle on the same court in her loss against Petra Cetkovska of the Czech Republic.
Hewitt, the 2002 Wimbledon champion, was beaten by Germany’s Dustin Brown in four sets.
Azarenka withdrew shortly before her second-round match against Italy’s Flavia Pennetta with a knee injury sustained during a fall in her opening round.
When asked by the British Broadcasting Corp. if she’d overheard Sharapova telling the umpire the court was dangerous, Larcher de Brito said, “These courts can be slippery and dangerous. There was a lot of grass that’s been cut that hadn’t been swept off. It was a tough court to play on.”
Azarenka said the courts had been slippery and called on tournament organizers to find a solution.
Sharapova told reporters she couldn’t remember “ever falling three times in a match before in my career, so that was a little strange.”
She said that wasn’t an excuse for losing.
“Today I’ve seen a lot of players fall and take a few hits and a few injuries,” Sharapova said. “That’s just part of the game, part of what we have to deal with.”
Richard Lewis, chief executive officer of the All England Club, said in an e-mail there have been no changes in the preparation 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,” he said.
Lewis added that the organizers sympathized with the players who quit.
Darcis was one of them, failing to make his second-round match with a shoulder injury sustained during a fall against Nadal.
The departure of both Federer and Nadal opens up the draw for Britain’s Andy Murray, who advanced to the third round yesterday in straight sets against Taiwan’s Yen-Hsun Lu. Federer and Nadal, who faced each other in three Wimbledon finals, had been seeded to meet in the quarterfinals, with the winner then due to play the second-seeded Murray in the semifinals.
“I still have plans to play for many more years to come,” Federer said, when asked if it was the end of an era for him and Nadal. “It’s normal that after all of a sudden losing early after being in the quarters 36 times, people feel it’s different. You guys hyped it up so much, me playing Rafa, and we’re both out. So there’s a letdown clearly. Maybe it’s also somewhat a bit disrespectful to the other opponents who are in the draw still.”
Murray didn’t want to think too far ahead.
“Everybody was so obsessed with how the draw was before the tournament started,” he said in a news conference. “Now everybody wants to change their views on it because a few guys have lost. I’ll just concentrate on my next match.”
With the exception of Russia’s Marat Safin at the 2005 Australian Open and Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro at the 2009 U.S. Open, the four tennis Grand Slam events have been won by either Murray, Nadal, Federer or Djokovic since the 2004 French Open.
That domination may be about to end, Murray said.
“The consistency of playing at a high level from the top players has been incredible,” said Murray, the current U.S. Open champion. “But that is not going to last forever. When guys have slight dips in form, some of the younger guys start to improve and raise their level, then that’s going to be tough to maintain for a long period. There’s been a lot of depth in the men’s game for a long time. It’s just now the results are starting to show that.”