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By Neil Maidment
LONDON, June 26 Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga joined a long list of casualties at Wimbledon on Wednesday when he retired injured while trailing Latvia's Ernests Gulbis in his second round match.
Day Three of the championships had already been blighted by a spate of injury withdrawals when a troublesome knee forced the sixth seed to throw in the towel just before the fourth set in a match he was losing 6-3 3-6 3-6.
Tsonga, who was a potential quarter-final opponent for British number one Andy Murray, had called a trainer on to Centre Court after two sets.
He emerged from the treatment with strapping on his left knee to support a tendon injury that has been a problem in the past and flared up again six days ago.
But his already patchy performance only got worse as Gulbis, ranked 39th in the world, improved his serve and turned up the aggression, peppering shots past the struggling Frenchman to take control of the match.
"I tried, but no chance for me to beat a guy like this without my legs," Tsonga, twice a Wimbledon semi-finalist, said.
However, Gulbis, who faces Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the third round, said he had been on red alert all the same.
"It was tough points, because still even on one leg he has very good talented hands," he told reporters after booking his first ever place in the third round at the All England Club.
While he had only been required to contest three sets, the 24-year-old said it was not something he would like to see more of after suggestions men may need to play three-set grand slam matches instead of five due to the physicality of the sport.
"Grand slam is grand slam. You don't need an easy way to win it," Gulbis said. "If you can't make it, you can't make it. Sorry, stay at home and do something else.
"Grand slam should be five sets, blood, fight five sets all the way until the end, until somebody is dead."
Earlier on Wednesday, Rafa Nadal's conqueror Steve Darcis and women's second seed Victoria Azarenka were among several players to withdraw injured from the championships. (Reporting by Neil Maidment, Editing by Ken Ferris)