Belfast Telegraph

Roger and Novak call for rule change as opponents retire

 

By John Skilbeck

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic called for Wimbledon to change its rules after both of their opponents retired on a disgruntled Centre Court.

Djokovic was leading Martin Klizan 6-3 2-0 when the Slovakian succumbed to a calf injury before Alexandr Dolgopolov pulled the plug in his first-round match at 6-3 3-0 down to Federer.

Klizan and Dolgopolov were two of seven men to withdraw during their first-round matches, with Viktor Troicki and Janko Tipsarevic both spending less than 20 minutes on court.

Federer and Djokovic even joked about playing a practice set to appease the crowd on Centre.

Federer said: "I felt like there was a bit of a let-down from the crowd. They couldn't believe that it happened again, exactly the same situation.

"I feel for the crowd. They're there to watch good tennis. At least they see the two of us who gave it all they had.

"They saw other players that tried at least. They put in another match on Centre Court. It's unfortunate that it happened today like this."

It was a highly unusual situation but highlighted an unwanted side effect of the big increases in prize money for first-round losers at the grand slams.

Those exiting at the opening stage of this year's Wimbledon will pocket £35,000 -more than double the £14,500 offered five years ago.

For players with pre-existing injuries, the temptation to take to the court knowing victory, or even completing the match, is unlikely is all too great.

The ATP have introduced a rule this year whereby a player with an injury can pull out but still receive the first-round prize money.

A lucky loser then takes their place and competes for prize money from the second round onwards.

Federer said: "A player should not go on court if he knows he should not finish. The question is, did they truly believe they were going to finish? If they did, I think it's okay.

"The ATP has adjusted its rule. But maybe the slams should have a look at what they could do for the players to make it just a little bit easier. It's a lot of money."

The grand slams and the WTA are monitoring the impact of the ATP rule but no formal talks about introducing it have taken place.

Djokovic said: "I support that kind of rule. It's really odd that Roger's result and my result more or less was the same.

"It doesn't happen often really. This tournament has a special place in players' careers. The aura of Wimbledon has probably always been the strongest of any tournament.

"I'm sure that most of the players on the tour, if not all, feel that. Especially if you walk out on the Centre Court. I'm sure they tried their best."

Dolgopolov has no doubt players do step on court knowing they will not complete a match - although he insisted that was not the case for him.

The Ukrainian, who suffered a right ankle injury three weeks ago, said: "The reality is you're going to have that.

"For most of the draw, it's significant money for the guys to pay their coaches and keep on playing.

"I've made enough money, I've had a long career, I've been top 20. If I know it's a risk for my body, I don't go there to just step on court.

"I practised yesterday, it was okay. I was comfortable, I had no problem going on court for sure. I was quite confident with the foot."

Elsewhere, last year's runner-up Milos Raonic began his campaign with a 7-6 (7/5) 6-2 7-6 (7/4) win over Jan-Lennard Struff while there were also wins for Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov and Juan Martin del Potro.

Results roundj-up

Men’s Singles Round 1: Radu Albot (Mol) bt Facundo Bagnis (Arg) 4-6 6-4 7-6 (11-9) 7-6 (7-3) , (6) Milos Raonic (Can) bt Jan-Lennard Struff (Ger) 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 7-6 (7-4) , Mikhail Youzhny (Rus) bt Nicolas Mahut (Fra) 6-2 7-5 6-4 , Andrey Rublev (Rus) bt Stefano Travaglia (Ita) 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 7-5 1-6 7-5 , (25) Albert Ramos-Vinolas (Spa) bt Jordan Thompson (Aus) 6-4 6-4 7-6 (7-4) , (17) Jack Sock (USA) bt Christian Garin (Chi) 6-3 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 , Patrick Ofner (Aut) bt Thomaz Bellucci (Bra) 6-2 6-3 6-2 , Frances Tiafoe (USA) bt Robin Haase (Ned) 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 , (10) Alexander Zverev (Ger) bt Evgeny Donskoy (Rus) 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 , (13) Grigor Dimitrov (Bul) bt Diego Sebastian Schwartzman (Arg) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 6-1 , Marcos Baghdatis (Cyp) bt James Ward (Gbr) 6-4 6-4 6-3 , Dudi Sela (Isr) bt Marcel Granollers (Spa) 4-6 6-3 1-6 6-2 6-1 , (23) John Isner (USA) bt Taylor Harry Fritz (USA) 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 , (27) Mischa Zverev (Ger) bt Bernard Tomic (Aus) 6-4 6-3 6-4 , Mikhail Kukushkin (Kaz) bt Taro Daniel (Jpn) 4-6 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 , Dusan Lajovic (Ser) bt Stefanos Tsitsipas (Gre) 6-4 6-4 6-4 , (3) Roger Federer (Swi) bt Alexandr Dolgopolov (Ukr) 6-3 3-0 ret, (8) Dominic Thiem (Aut) bt Vasek Pospisil (Can) 6-4 6-4 6-3 , Gilles Simon (Fra) bt Nicolas Jarry (Chi) 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 6-3 , Jared Donaldson (USA) bt Janko Tipsarevic (Ser) 5-0 ret, David Ferrer (Spa) bt (22) Richard Gasquet (Fra) 6-3 6-4 5-7 6-2 , Steve Darcis (Bel) bt Ricardas Berankis (Lit) 4-6 6-3 2-6 6-4 6-3 , Ryan Harrison (USA) bt Borna Coric (Cro) 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 7-6 (8-6) , (11) Tomas Berdych (Cze) bt eremy Chardy (Fra) 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 , (15) Gael Monfils (Fra) bt Daniel Brands (Ger) 6-3 7-5 6-4 , Kyle Edmund (Gbr) bt Alexander Ward (Gbr) 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-1 , Yuichi Sugita (Jpn) bt Brydan Klein

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