By Pritha Sarkar
LONDON (Reuters) – Sympathy was in short supply for Wimbledon’s walking wounded on Tuesday after back-to-back retirements robbed Centre Court fans of what should have been a blockbuster double bill featuring Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
The 15,000-strong crowd drew a collective gasp as within the space of 70 minutes Martin Klizan and Alexandr Dolgopolov called it quits in their first round matches against Djokovic and Federer, respectively — leaving the Centre Court schedule done and dusted by 4:50 p.m. local time.
Since Klizan and Dolgopolov appeared to have carried injuries into their matches, which meant they must have known they might not last the distance on Tuesday, many observers accused them of being selfish as they short-changed fans and denied fully-fit players a place in the draw.
“There’s got to be a rule for guys who come out clearly not giving or able to give 100 percent. It’s no good for anyone,” tennis great John McEnroe said while commentating on the BBC.
“There are guys waiting in there, the lucky loser will be looking … and thinking he could have played on Centre Court at Wimbledon.”
Before day two of the championships had even been completed, seven players had thrown in the towel.
Australian Nick Kyrgios was the first to pull out on Monday after failing to recover from a hip injury he aggravated at London’s Queen’s Club two weeks ago.
Denis Istomin and Viktor Troicki followed suit before Klizan, Dolgopolov, Janko Tipsarevic and Queen’s Club champion Feliciano Lopez also quit.
For many of the fringe players on the tour, featuring in the first round of a grand slam allows them to pick up what could be their biggest pay-cheque of the year.
With first-round Wimbledon losers banking 35,000 pounds ($45,216.50) this year, some wondered if the sums of money at stake were the deciding factor on why unfit players turned up.
“It’s a lot of money. For some it’s more, for some it’s less,” said seven-times Wimbledon champion Federer.
The Swiss, whose first round workout lasted a mere 43 minutes before Dolgopolov retired while trailing 6-3 3-0 30-30, felt the grand slams should look into adopting a financial compensation system that is in place on the ATP Tour.
“On the ATP level… if you can’t play, you still get your prize money twice in the year. Maybe the grand slams should adopt some of that, then maybe we would eliminate half of the players (who turn up injured),” said Federer, the favorite to win a record eighth title.
“A player should not go on court if he knows he could not finish. The question is, did they truly believe they were going to finish? If they did, I think it’s okay that they walk on court. Otherwise, I feel they should give up the spot.”
Kyrgios said he had gone against medical advice and chose to play as “it’s my favorite tournament”.
Federer said Dolgopolov decided to cut his losses after he “felt too much pain on the serve”.
On each occasion, the trainer was called to aid the two players but the treatments offered — be it massages or pain killers — could not salvage the situation.
“I’m sure the players that retired… this tournament has a special place in players’ careers. In this sport, there’s so much weight behind it and significance about it,” said Djokovic.
Federer added that players might come out in the hope that “miracles happen.
“You never know if you hang around, you start drop-shotting the (other) guy, (he) twists his ankle, you move on.
“Maybe a big cloud’s coming in. We’re here in Britain, so… You never know what the player’s motives are.”
Federer said the rate of dropouts would fall if the slams switched to best-of-three-sets rather than best-of-five as it would mean matches were more like “a sprint to the finish line” rather than being “a marathon” but the people he really felt sorry for on Tuesday were the fans.
“There was a letdown for the crowd. They couldn’t believe that it happened again. I feel for the crowd. They’re there to watch good tennis, proper tennis.”
($1 = 0.7741 pounds)
(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ken Ferris)