26th June 2013. Not a date that springs to mind off the top of any tennis fans heads. However, the events of that day and how they unfolded will never be forgotten. Many will recall it as the date in which the draw was decimated by many high profile exits including Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka.
The first two days at SW19 saw little surprises with the exception of the shock exit of Rafael Nadal to Belgium’s Steve Darcis. With the the favourites coasting into the second round it was onto the third day of the tournament where they were expected to continue their form. Largely expected to be a routine day of tennis as the majority of seeds faced players who looked unable to trouble them, the tennis gods had other ideas as the fans were hit by one shocking moment after another.
Azarenka gets the ball rolling
First up on Centre court was Victoria Azarenka who faced Flavia Pennetta. After a tough fall in her first round match, Victoria Azarenka struggled on through against Maria Joao Koehler. Whilst the 6-1 6-2 scoreline wouldn’t suggest it, the second seed, visibly in pain managed to get the win to advance to the second round. Despite the issues in the first round many were expecting Azarenka to be back to full fitness and end up being the victor.
The crowd settled into their seats on Centre Court for the match, the ice in their Pimm’s cups barely starting to melt before an announcement came over the PA system, Azarenka had withdrawn. The Belaruisian was unable to get over her injury and had let the organisers know that she would be unable to compete. It looked like it was to be the headline of the day, the second seed out of the tournament on day three due to injury. However, little did the fans know that this was just the tip of the iceberg and was the start of what was to go down as one of the most memorable days in Wimbledon’s history, and not for the right reasons.
Next on Centre Court was the then relatively unknown youngster Eugenie Bouchard against 12th seed and former world number one Ana Ivanovic whose match had been moved from an outside court last minute to accommodate the gap left over from Azarenka’s withdrawal. The mood in the stadium had just about subdued from the earlier withdrawal as the match started.
However, in little over an hour later, the atmosphere again reached fever pitch as Bouchard dispatched of Ivanovic 6-3 6-3, a win which would prove to be no fluke as the Canadian would play on the same court just two years later in the final. Next on court was sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga against Ernest Gulbis. Normality appeared to be resumed in the tennis world as Tsonga went a set up. Gulbis however had other ideas, taking the next two sets before Tsonga was forced to call it a day, retiring through injury to end his title chances.
Federer follows suit
After the three shocks of the day, the Centre Court crowd could breath a sigh of relief as they saw what was coming up next. Seven time Wimbledon champion and fan favourite, the insurmountable Roger Federer, against the lowly Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine. Even after the shocks of the previous matches on court, this was a sure thing. It was less “I hope this match won't make me miss the last train” and more “will I be able to finish my strawberries before Roger wins?”.
Taking the first set with a tie-break, Federer rarely seemed troubled as both he and the crowd enjoyed what looked like being a chance for the Swiss to save energy for the third round. However, Stakhovsky had other ideas which Federer and the crowd were less than prepared for. The Ukrainian appeared to summon the spirits of past tennis greats as he played Federer off the court for two sets to take an unimaginable lead. What seemed like a blip for Federer continued as Stakhovsky continued his momentum in the fourth set, sealing the set in the tie-break to seal undoubtedly the biggest win of his career and one of the biggest shocks in tennis history.
Court Two joins in the drama
The drama was not just restricted to Centre Court however with Court Two trying it’s best to match the madness of it’s bigger sibling. First up on the order of play was former Wimbledon winner Lleyton Hewitt against the enigmatic qualifier Dustin Brown of Germany. Playing his now well-renowned unorthodox game, Brown breezed past the former world number one and endeared himself to the fans at the same time. Next up on court was another former world number one in Caroline Wozniacki who also had a qualifier to face as she squared off with Petra Cetkovska. In what was expected to be a routine win for Wozniacki, the reality turned out to be the complete opposite as Cetkovska brushed aside the Dane in a straight sets victory.
Following on from Cetkovska’s surprise win was another qualifier, Michelle Larcher De Brito, ranked 131 in the world who looked to emulate Cetkovska's performance. The diminutive Portuguese however had a much trickier task ahead of her, third seed Maria Sharapova. The Russian had been in dominant form coming into Wimbledon and was fancied for the title if strong favourite Serena Williams was not to be victorious. Sharapova slipped a few times on the surface as she struggled against Larcher De Brito. Complaining to the umpire that “the court is dangerous”, Sharapova, clearly unhappy with the conditions struggled to build any momentum. Larcher De Brito would top off a memorable day on court for fans as she ground out a straight sets win to send the second seed packing. The match itself going down in history as one of the biggest shocks in women’s tennis will equally be remembered for its thunderous soundtrack of grunting from both sides. Originally the crowd were then set to be treated to tenth seed Marin Cilic against Kenny De Scheeper, however Cilic withdrew from the match. Officially citing a knee injury, it would later become apparent that the Cypriot had failed a drugs test and used the knee injury to hide this fact.
Outside Centre Court and Court Two, five other seeds were to exit including John Isner with injury and Jelena Jankovic. Rafael Nadal’s conqueror Steve Darcis also withdrew before his match with an injury he picked up in his win.
Post-mortem on the days events
A £1 bet on Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic to lose their respective second round matches would have won £1171.88
As the day’s play finished, the autopsy was well under way for the organisers as many of the players commented on the conditions of the courts with Azarenka going as far as saying the courts should be investigated. After what was one of the days rare wins for a strong favourite, Andy Murray would comment on the events of the day stating that he felt no different on the surface to usual. Whilst the injuries and withdrawals hit the headlines, the actual number itself was not unusually high and it was the prominence of high profile players which caused the most shock.
Ultimately, no tangible conclusions were reached and the tournament continued going on to experience many more memorable moments including Sabine Lisicki’s unforgettable victory against Serena Williams before the tournament culminated in Andy Murray and Marion Bartoli’s first Wimbledon titles.