Big names out to avoid repeat of Wimbledon's "Wacky Wednesday" one year on
Defending champion Andy Murray races into the third round with win over Slovenian Blaz Rola
Last year's runner-up Novak Djokovic battles through in four sets, but David Ferrer crashes out
Former women's No. 1 Victoria Azarenka loses, but second-ranked Li Na progresses
Tennis top dogs are out to avoid another “Wacky Wednesday” at Wimbledon.
Exactly a year ago, the famous grass-court grand slam experienced one of the weirdest days in its history as former champions Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova were knocked out and no less than seven players withdrew injured.
This year, however, defending champion Andy Murray sidestepped a potential banana skin with an effortless 6-1 6-1 6-0 victory over world No. 92 Blaz Rola.
“I played well today,” said the world No. 3, who next plays Spanish 27th seed Roberto Bautista Agut. “He’s just come out of college and broken into the top 100 so it was tough for him but he’s got a good game.”
Murray, who reached the French Open semifinal after a series of five-set slogs, was relieved to wrap up the second round match in just under 90 minutes.
“I felt like that cost me a little bit at the French Open,” he added. “If you can finish matches as quickly as possible it definitely helps in the long run.”
Second seed Novak Djokovic had a few more problems in his second-round match, finally overcoming veteran Czech Radek Stepanek – who beat Murray at Queen’s Club this month.
The Serbian world No. 2 triumphed 6-4 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-5) in three hours 17 minutes to set up a clash with Frenchman Gilles Simon, who beat Robin Haase of the Netherlands in straight sets.
“I was two sets up and had some break-point chances in the third and I should have closed it out in the third set tie-breaker, but credit to him for fighting,” said Djokovic, the 2011 Wimbledon winner and runner-up last year.
“He’s 35 years old but he’s moving very well. Grass is probably his most preferred surface. He performs really well on the big stages as you saw,” added Djokovic, who lost the French Open final against Rafael Nadal this month.
“He loves to engage the crowd, he’s an entertainer, and it was fun from one side to be part of a great thrilling match, but on the other side I should not have complicated my own life this way.”
Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky sent out a warning by sensationally repeating his “Wacky Wednesday” antics.
Last year, Stakhovsky was a shock winner against Federer, saying afterwards: “I can definitely tell my grandkids that I kicked the butt of Roger Federer.”
The world No. 90 kicked ass again on the Wimbledon grass, this time sending in-form Latvian Ernest Gulbis packing 6-4 6-3 7-6 victory to book his place in the third round, where he faces Freance’s Jeremy Chardy.
“Nothing was working from my side,” Gulbis, the world No.12, told reporters. “Two of my biggest weapons, my serve and return, weren’t there.
“A lot of credit to Sergiy. That’s why he beat Roger last year on grass. The guy has a good game plan. He comes in, he chips the ball, he takes out the pace.”
Spain’s seventh seed David Ferrer also succumbed to grass-court giantkilling, losing 6-7 6-0 3-6 6-3 6-3 to 2009 junior Wimbledon champion Russian Andrey Kuznetsov, who next plays Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer.
It’s the first time in 18 grand slams that Ferrer had failed to reach the third round.
Sixth seed Tomas Berdych went through to round three beating Australian Bernard Tomic, while Queen’s champion Grigor Dimitrov also progressed along with Italian 16th seed Fabio Fognini, South African No. 20 Kevin Anderson, Ukraine’s Aleksandr Dolgopolov and Croatia’s Marin Cilic.
In the women’s draw, there was one upset as former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka crashed out in the second round, with the eighth seed from Belarus losing 6-3 3-6 7-5 to 45th-ranked Serbian Bojana Jovanovski.
Australian Open champion Li Na ticked off a 6-2 6-2 victory against Austrian Yvonne Meusburger, and the Chinese star will next play Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.
The 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova dropped just two games as she eased past German Mona Barthel, and the Czech will next face five-time winner Venus Williams – who advanced to the third round with a 7-6 6-1 victory over Kurumi Nara.
Polish fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, a finalist in 2012, swept aside Australian Casey Dellacqua 6-4 6-0 while former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki also triumphed.