As Alexander Dolgopolov looked up at umpire Mohamed Lahyaniand and trudged towards the net to confirm his resignation against eighteen-time grand slam champion Roger Federer, there was a collective groan and a few boos from the Centre Court crowd.
The world number 84 was trailing 6-3 3-0 when he pulled out of the first-round contest with an ankle injury. It was the second retirement in as many matches following Martin Kližan’s withdrawal against Novak Djokovic, when the Serb led 6-3 2-0.
That is one of the issues in individual sports and when one of the competitors isn’t fit to compete, it is hardly much of a spectacle for the crowd– many of whom will have paid £56 for a Centre Court ticket.
Pre-match injuries scupper Centre Court proceedings
This isn’t the first time and won’t be the last that this has happened, and Kližan, whose calf was heavily strapped when he walked onto court, appeared resigned to defeat from the get go.
It begs the question whether players who aren’t fully fit to compete should sacrifice their place in the main draw for one of the many players in the lower echelons.
There are several who were defeated in the qualifying competition and would relish the opportunity to play on the biggest stage.
The problem is that a first-round loser at Wimbledon receives a cheque for £30,000, simply for just stepping onto court.
That’s a hefty sum of money to give up, but surely something must be done to stop a repeat of Tuesday’s deflating let down.
Djokovic and Federer sail through
As for Federer and Djokovic, it was hard to access their games after neither match exceeded the 45-minute mark.
Djokovic, who claimed a maiden title at Eastbourne last week, managed to repel a barrage of powerful groundstrokes from Kližan, who was hitting the ball cleanly despite his ailed movement.
The Serb will now face Czech Adam Pavlasek in the second round on Thursday, after the world number 136 beat Ernesto Escobedo in four sets.
Meanwhile Federer, who is many people’s favourite to claim the title in a fortnight’s time, was striking the ball crisply and holding serve comfortably before Dolgopolov threw in the towel.
The eighteen-time major winner will meet Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic in round two.
Elsewhere in the men’s draw there were straight set victories for sixth seed Milos Raonic and German Alexander Zverev.
In the women’s competition, world number one Angelique Kerber and third seed Karolina Pliskova both progress comfortably.