Men pull up lame on Cen­tre Court

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

LON­DON — No­vak Djokovic’s first-round match at Wim­ble­don lasted 40 min­utes Tues­day. Roger Fed­erer’s, which was next in the All Eng­land Club’s main sta­dium, went 43 min­utes.

When two of the big­gest stars in ten­nis crossed paths af­ter both ad­vanced when op­po­nents stopped play­ing be­cause of pre-ex­ist­ing in­juries, they kid­ded each other about a way to try to make it up to the fans.

“We had a lit­tle joke about it in the locker room,” Djokovic re­counted, “say­ing we should maybe play a prac­tice set on the Cen­tre Court, have the crowd stay.”

The short work­days for the two were quite sim­i­lar. Djokovic led 6-3, 2-0 when Martin Kl­izan re­tired with a left leg prob­lem that has both­ered him for about two months; Fed­erer was ahead 6-3, 3-0 when Alexandr Dol­go­polov quit be­cause of a painful right an­kle he first twisted last month.

Those still go into the books as vic­to­ries, al­low­ing

Fed­erer to col­lect his 85th at Wim­ble­don, break­ing a tie with Jimmy Connors for the most in the Open era. Djokovic picked up his 234th match vic­tory at all ma­jors, mov­ing ahead of Connors and alone into sec­ond place in his­tory, be­hind only Fed­erer’s 315.

But the way the af­ter­noon went meant Cen­tre Court spec­ta­tors who paid more than $70 per ticket — some of them wait­ing in line for hours — got only brief glimpses of seven-time cham­pion Fed­erer and three-time cham­pion Djokovic. They did, how­ever, have the op­por­tu­nity to watch a pair of top women, cur­rent No. 1 An­gelique Ker­ber and for­mer No. 1 Caro­line Woz­ni­acki, win full-length matches.

“I feel for the crowd. They’re there to watch good ten­nis. Proper ten­nis. At least they see the two of us, who gave it all they had. They saw other play­ers that tried, at least,” Fed­erer said. “It’s un­for­tu­nate that it hap­pened.”

Two other men also stopped mid­match Tues­day — 19th-seeded Feli­ciano Lopez (left foot) and Janko Tip­sare­vic (right leg) — bring­ing the first-round re­tire­ment to­tal to seven. That equals 2008 for the most by men in the first round dur­ing the 50 edi­tions of Wim­ble­don in the Open era.

It sparked dis­cus­sion about whether Grand Slam tour­na­ments should change their rules to al­low play­ers to still re­ceive prize money if they with­draw be­fore an event. That’s a sys­tem be­ing em­ployed

on a trial ba­sis this sea­son on the ATP Tour — which doesn’t run ma­jors — and lets some­one who lost in qual­i­fy­ing take the spot in the main draw of an in­jured player.

The the­ory be­hind that setup: Play­ers who are in­jured won’t step on court sim­ply to col­lect their prize money as an en­trant be­fore call­ing it a day with­out fin­ish­ing the match.

“Even if I had a torn mus­cle to­day, and the doc­tor says, ‘You shouldn’t go on court, you have se­ri­ous dam­age to risk,’ I could have faked it, stayed

there for two less games, and still picked up the pay­check,” said Tip­sare­vic, who stopped while trail­ing 5-0 af­ter only 12 min­utes against Jared Don­ald­son of the U.S.

A first-round loser at Wim­ble­don earns about $45,000.

“Un­less you’re [in the] top 10 … it’s sig­nif­i­cant money,” said Dol­go­polov, who is ranked 84th.

Tip­sare­vic, Dol­go­polov and Fed­erer all would like to see the ma­jors fol­low the ATP’s lead.

“A player should not go on

court if he knows he [can] not fin­ish. The ques­tion is: Did they truly be­lieve they were go­ing to fin­ish? If they did, I think it’s OK that they walk on court. Oth­er­wise, I feel they should give up the spot,” Fed­erer said. “The ATP has ad­justed its rule, but maybe the Slams should … look at what they could do for the play­ers to make it just a lit­tle bit eas­ier.”

Ker­ber, last year’s run­ner-up to Ser­ena Wil­liams at the All Eng­land Club, had more to do to get past Irina Fal­coni of the U.S. 6-4, 6-4, and Woz­ni­acki, a two-time U.S. Open fi­nal­ist, needed three full sets to edge Timea Ba­bos 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.

But it was the short men’s matches that had ev­ery­one talk­ing.

“If it’s just ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain, OK, you can’t play. If some­thing is tweaked here or there and you feel like you can give it a de­cent go with­out hurt­ing your­self, I think they should stay out there and I think you owe it to the fans,” said 23rd-seeded John Is­ner, who beat Tay­lor Fritz 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-3 in an all-Amer­i­can matchup on Court 14. “I know the Wim­ble­don Cen­tre Court didn’t get their money’s worth to­day, that’s for sure.”

Col­lette Sher­ratt, 54, a spec­ta­tor who trav­eled from Manch­ester, Eng­land, to at­tend the tour­na­ment for the first time, sure felt that way.

“I’ve been watch­ing Wim­ble­don [on TV] for 42 years, and it’s been on my bucket list to come here,” Sher­ratt said. “I was ab­so­lutely thrilled that [I] was go­ing to be on Cen­tre Court, and then for that to hap­pen, it was like, ‘I might never get to come here again.’ ”

AP/ALAS­TAIR GRANT

Alexandr Dol­go­polov (right) greets Roger Fed­erer at the net af­ter Dol­go­polov was forced to quit their first-round Wim­ble­don match in the sec­ond set Tues­day be­cause of a right an­kle in­jury. Fed­erer was lead­ing 6-3, 3-0 be­fore Dol­go­polov re­tired.

AP/ALAS­TAIR GRANT

An­gelique Ker­ber de­feated Irina Fal­coni 6-4, 6-4 in their first-round match at Wim­ble­don on Tues­day in Lon­don.

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