Federer farewell amid carnage at Wimbledon

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The first Wednesday at Wimbledon witnessed carnage. Seven players were forced to withdraw with injuries while former champions Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova were both knocked out by unfancied opponents.

Federer's defeat was the biggest surprise. The defending champion fought a three-hour war of attrition with the Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky before succumbing 6-7, 7-6, 7-5, 7-6. This was an even bigger shock than the defeat of Rafael Nadal on the opening day, given Federer's assurance on grass.

There was immediate speculation that this was the end of an era. The Swiss star didn't see it that way. "No, because I still have plans to play for many more years to come," he said. "You guys hyped it up so much, me playing Rafa, and we're both out. Maybe it's also somewhat disrespectful to the other opponents who are in the draw still."

Looking on with likely relish was Andy Murray, beaten by Federer in last year's final. His route to a possible final against Novak Djokovic looks far more comfortable now. Also out is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the sixth seed, who withdrew with a knee injury while two sets to one down against Ernests Gulbis.

Tsonga was one of seven players who withdrew amidst criticism of the dangerous surface of the courts. Caroline Wozniacki fell and twisted her ankle and Victoria Azarenka, the second seed in the women's tournament, withdrew with a knee injury she had sustained in her first round match. "It would be great if the club or somebody who takes care of the court just would examine or try to find an issue so that wouldn't happen," Azarenka said.

French Open finalist Sharapova lost in straight sets to Portuguese qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito, and criticised the courts for being dangerous after slipping. She didn't elaborate after the match out of fear of seeming ungracious to a capable opponent. "After I buckled my knee three times, that's obviously my first reaction," was all she would say.

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