Sharapova Loses at Wimbledon as High Seeds Forced to Quit

Maria Sharapova lost her second-round match at Wimbledon as men’s sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and women’s No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka were among a record seven players who dropped out of the grass-court tournament today.

Sharapova of Russia was upset by Michelle Larcher de Brito, a qualifier ranked 128 places below her. The Portuguese player beat the 2004 champion 6-3, 6-4, on Court 2 at the All England Club in London. It was the earliest loss at the grass-court tennis tournament for Sharapova since 2009. Larcher de Brito, ranked 131st on the women’s WTA tour, had never before reached the third round.

“It was unbelievable, it’s probably the best win of my career,” Larcher de Brito said in a televised interview. “I just tried to stay calm.”

Sharapova had shouted “how many times” after she fell on the grass at the end of the first set. She fell again at 3-2 in the second set, and spoke to the umpire about conditions.

Former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki rolled her ankle on the same court earlier today in a loss to Petra Cetkovska of the Czech Republic. Britain’s Andy Murray, last year’s runner-up, defeated Taiwan’s Yen-Hsun Lu, while Germany’s Dustin Brown upset 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt.

Seven players quit the tournament today because of illness or injury, which the International Tennis Federation said probably is a single-day record in the professional era of the sport. Ten player have left since the start of the tournament.

Injuries Mount

No. 10 Marin Cilic quit. Azarenka, the Australian Open champion, along with Steve Darcis and Yarovlava Shvedova, withdrew. Tsonga of France, American John Isner and Radek Stepanek quit during matches because of injuries. After 2 1/2 days of the tournament, nine players have left with illness or injury.

Azarenka pulled out with a right-knee injury shortly before her match against Italy’s Flavia Pennetta. The 23-year-old from Belarus was hurt when she slipped on the grass two days ago in a win over Portugal’s Maria Joao Koehler.

Azarenka said the court was “slippery” during that match and that her opponent had fallen twice. Others also fell afterward, she said.

“So I don’t know if it’s the court or the weather,” she said at a news conference today. “I can’t figure it out. Would be great if the club or somebody who takes care of the court just would examine or try to find an issue so that wouldn’t happen. Because there is nothing I’ve done wrong that cost me to just withdraw from Wimbledon.”

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.

No Changes

“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,” said Lewis, who said the organizers “sympathize” with the players who quit. “The factual evidence, which is independently checked, is that the courts are almost identical to last year, as dry and firm as they should be, and we expect them to continue to play to their usual high quality.””

It’s the first year that Eddie Stubley is head groundsman at the All England Club. Eddie Seaward, who looked after the Wimbledon lawns for 23 years, left after the London Olympics last year. Stubley has worked at the club for 19 years.

Cetkovska, a qualifier from the Czech Republic, beat Wozniacki, the ninth seed from Denmark, 6-2, 6-2, while Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard defeated No. 12 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, 6-3, 6-3. Murray, the men’s second seed, beat Lu 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 and Spain’s Nicolas Almagro defeated Guillaume Rufin of France.

Sloane Stephens, the No. 17 seed from the U.S. who reached the Australian Open semifinals earlier this season, beat Germany’s Andrea Petkovic in three sets.

Brown Upset

Brown of Germany upset Hewitt of Australia 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2.

“I cried like a little girl,” Brown said in a news conference. “Just happy and emotional and everything. I have a lot of friends here, my coach is here, my girlfriend is here. Just been a very long way. Just happy that I actually got through the match.”

Tsonga retired because of injury before the fourth set against Ernests Gulbis of Latvia. The Frenchman won the first set before dropping the next two.

Cilic, of Croatia, withdrew before his match with France’s Kenny De Schepper, while Darcis of Belgium pulled out with a shoulder injury before his match with Lukasz Kubot of Poland.

Darcis, ranked 135th in the world, scored one of the biggest upsets in tennis history by beating two-time champion Rafael Nadal two days ago. The Spaniard, a 12-time major champion, had never before lost in the first round of a major.

Darcis Exits

“Not to go on the court today, it’s maybe the biggest disappointing thing I have had to do,” Darcis told reporters, adding he hurt his shoulder during a fall in the first set against Nadal, and the pain had grew worse at night. “No chance I can play. I cannot serve. Even on the forehand side, I cannot hit a ball. Makes no sense to go on the court to withdraw after two games.”

Isner retired with a knee injury after 15 minutes of his second-round match Adrian Mannarino of France. The 18th-seeded player, who won the longest match in tennis history, 11 hours, 5 minutes, at Wimbledon three years ago, had been the highest-ranked American man left in the singles draw.

Stepanek of the Czech Republic retired with a hamstring injury as he trailed Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz 6-2, 5-3 on Court