By TOM KELLY and ELEANOR HARDING
Maria Sharapova angrily branded the Wimbledon courts ‘dangerous’ yesterday as a record number of players were forced to drop out through injury in a single day.
The former champion confronted the umpire after slipping three times and buckling her knee during her shock second round defeat in straight sets to an unseeded opponent.
It came as seven players pulled out through injury – a record on a single day at any Grand Slam event – and Andy Murray received a fresh boost in his quest for Wimbledon glory with the departures of Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Women’s number two seed, Victoria Azarenka, was another to criticise the condition of the courts as she was forced to withdraw after failing to recover from an injury caused by a fall earlier in the week.
It meant almost a quarter of the second round ties due to be played yesterday became byes.
Sharapova's exit came hours after the withdrawal of second seed Azarenka who called for Wimbledon officials to investigate why the courts were so slippery
Meanwhile, there was no slip up for Murray, who won in straight sets against Taiwan’s Yen-Hsun Lu.
And his hopes of reaching the final were helped by third seed Federer, who he was due to meet in the semi, losing to unseeded Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky. The seven-times winner was beaten in four sets on Centre Court.
Maria Sharapova is treated for an injury after falling over during today's match at Wimbledon
Meanwhile, Murray’s potential quarter-final opponent, sixth seed Tsonga, became another casualty of ‘Walkover Wednesday’ after being forced to retire with a knee injury.
Wimbledon insisted the unusually high number of slips this year was ‘freakish coincidence’.
It is head groundsman Neil Stubley’s first year in complete charge of preparing courts – though he has worked at the championships for nearly two decades.
The previous head groundsman, Eddie Seaward, had warned last year his successor would have a month less than normal to prepare the courts because of the extra tournament held at the All England Club for the Olympics last August.
Some speculated that the wrong choice of footwear or lack of preparation for playing on grass might be to blame for the high number of falls.