American Bethanie Mattek-Sands injures knee at Wimbledon.
LONDON — The screams were startling.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands, a 32-year-old American who came to Wimbledon eyeing a fourth consecutive Grand Slam doubles title, fell to the grass when her right knee buckled as she moved toward the net in a second-round singles match Thursday.
She immediately clutched her knee and, down on the turf, wailed loudly, imploring for someone to “Help me! Help me!”
Her opponent, Sorana Cirstea, immediately climbed over the net to check on Mattek-Sands, who after about 20 minutes was removed from Court 17 on a stretcher and taken to a hospital.
“Her knee was in a very weird position. I’ve never seen anything like this, probably, except in the movies. And, yeah, I panicked a little bit, as well,” Cirstea said. “Then I called for help, but no one was coming. Then tried to comfort her as much as I could. But, I mean, you could feel the pain.”
The extent of MattekSands’ injury, which came in the third set’s opening game, was not immediately known. But word quickly spread around the grounds, generating concern among players. She’s popular on tour, known for her gregarious personality, loud laugh and original fashion choices.
She’s also quite a doubles player, ranked No. 1 right now after teaming with Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic to win the past three major championships and a total of five. Safarova heard about Mattek-Sands on TV and ran to her court, then stood nearby and wiped away tears as she saw her friend and playing partner in distress.
“Just terrible what happened. Obviously, I’m very sad for her. Doesn’t matter about whatever goals we had,” Safarova said, her voice barely above a whisper, after losing her singles match to Shelby Rogers of the U.S. in three sets. “It’s just about her being healthy.”
Mattek-Sands — who was born in Minnesota, lived in Wisconsin and now calls Arizona home with her husband Justin — thought about quitting tennis years ago after a series of injuries. There was hip surgery less than a week after her wedding in late 2008, a torn shoulder in 2011, a broken right big toe in 2012. Her ranking dropped outside the top 250 in singles and doubles in 2014, when she missed six months after another hip operation.
“I’m just, like, really hurt for her,” Safarova said.
There was no indication
that the condition of the grass on the court had anything to do with Mattek-Sands’ fall, but playing surfaces around the All England Club were a source of complaints by others Thursday. In particular, the areas near many baselines are brown and worn, with little or no grass in spots — looking the way Wimbledon’s courts usually do by late in Week 2, not as soon as Day 4 — something players said they were told was a result of unusual heat and lack of rain in recent weeks.
“The patch near the baseline is eaten up and the dirt underneath is like ice. Look around, people are going down left and right,” said 46th-ranked Alison Riske of the U.S., whose 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory over 12th-seeded Kristina Mladenovic of France at Court 18 was one of a handful of upsets in the women’s draw, including No. 3 Karolina Pliskova’s three-set loss to Magdalena Rybarikova.
“I was worried about, maybe, our safety, to be honest,” Riske said. “The court was pretty slippery.”
In men’s play Thursday, seven-time champion Roger Federer needed a moment to find his way before unleashing his textbook grass game on Dusan Lajovic, producing a 7-6 (7-0), 6-3, 6-2 victory to move into the third round.
The third-seeded Federer, who is aiming for a 19th Grand Slam title, lost the first six points of the match and his first service game before establishing his deadly rhythm.
Novak Djokovic lived up to his second seeding as he mowed down 136th-ranked Adam Pavlasek 6-2, 6-2, 6-1.
The former world No. 1, who ruled tennis for two seasons before his results started tailing off 13 months ago, seems to be continuing the comeback form which saw him win in Eastbourne last weekend.
Djokovic notched his 235th Grand Slam victory against the outclassed Pavlasek, leaving the Serb second on the alltime match-win list ahead of Jimmy Connors (233).
Grigor Dimitrov, the 13th seed, dispatched Marcos Baghdatis 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 while 15th-seeded French showman Gael Monfils defeated Brit Kyle Edmund 7-7 (7-1), 6-4, 6-4 with 33 winners.
David Ferrer had easy passage when Belgian Steve Darcis retired after only three games.
In contrast, German Mischa Zverev worked for more than three hours to complete his marathon defeat of Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-2, 2-6, 3-6, 6-4.
Latvian Ernests Gulbis beat former Grand Slam champion Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) as Frenchman Adrian Mannarino put out recent ATP title-winner Yuchi Sugita 7-5, 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-2.
American Bethanie Mattek-Sands suffered a knee injury during her match against Sorana Cirstea of Romania on Thursday and was forced to retire. She was removed from the court on a stretcher and taken to a hospital.