(Adds Becker quote)
By Sonia Oxley
LONDON, June 26 (Reuters) - Second seed Victoria Azarenka called on Wimbledon organisers to examine the state of the courts after joining a growing list of players to withdraw from the grasscourt grand slam because of injury on Wednesday.
The Belarussian took a bad fall in her first-round match on Monday on what she called a slippery Court One and her knee failed to recover in time for Wednesday’s match against Flavia Pennetta as she became one of eight players to pull out so far.
“I don’t know if it’s the court or the weather I can’t figure it out it,” Azarenka, who joined John Isner, Marin Cilic, Radek Stepanek, Steve Darcis, Guido Pella, Philipp Kohlschreiber and Romina Oprandi in cutting short the Wimbledon campaign.
“It would be great if the (All England) club or somebody who takes care of the court just would examine or try to find an issue so that wouldn’t happen.”
It is the first edition of the tournament since the retirement of long-time head groundsman Eddie Seaward but a Wimbledon spokesman said there was nothing different about the courts this year.
“The surfaces at the start (of the tournament) are always lusher than at the end,” he said. “We have not changed the way the courts have been prepared or watered.”
German Boris Becker, whose athletic dives across the Wimbledon turf helped him win three titles, jumped to the defence of the courts.
“The grass is always going to be slippery in the first couple of matches, that has been the case for the past 100 plus years,” he told the BBC.
American Isner and Croat Cilic pulled out with knee injuries on Wednesday, while Belgium’s Darcis, who stunned Rafa Nadal in the first round, withdrew with a shoulder problem and Czech Stepanek had trouble with his left hamstring.
On Tuesday, Argentine Pella was carried off court on a stretcher after a nasty fall and Switzerland’s Oprandi was also injured, while German Kohlschreiber put his retirement in the fifth set of his first-round match down to flu.
“(It’s a) very black day ... it’s difficult to say what the explanation is,” 10th seed Cilic, who said he had been feeling some pain in his knees for much of the short grasscourt season, told a news conference on Wednesay.
While Darcis sustained his shoulder injury after falling in the first set of his match against Nadal on Monday, Cilic did not actually take a tumble.
“It’s more because of obviously much lower bounces, putting more pressure on my body and my knees, as I‘m pretty tall,” the Croatian said.
“It also has a difficulty on movement. It’s a bit tougher to move on grass than other surfaces.”
Azarenka, who lay on the ground screaming in agony on Monday after almost doing the splits behind the baseline, played for most of the second set of her first match in obvious pain and with her knee heavily strapped.
Asked if she thought the courts were different to past years, the Belarussian replied: ”I‘m wondering the same question because the court was not in a very good condition that day (Monday).
“I mean, my opponent fell twice; I fell badly; there were some other people who fell after.” (Reporting by Sonia Oxley; Editing by Ken Ferris)