Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have 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 letdown from the crowd. They couldn’t believe that it happened again, exactly the same situation.
“I feel for the crowd. 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 (€39,800) — more than double the £14,500 (€16,500) 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, there is a responsibility. 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, that’s obvious.
“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.”
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