Radek Stepanek’s Wimbledon campaign came to an abrupt halt this afternoon when he was forced to retire against No.24 seed Jerzy Janowicz on a day that saw four other players, including Victoria Azarenka and Nadal-toppler Steve Darcis, withdraw from The Championships due to injury.
The 34-year-old, a quarter-finalist here in 2006, has battled injury for much of the season and it soon became clear that all was not well when he called on the trainer for a medical time out a mere six games into the match. Despite the application of industrial-strength taping to his left thigh, Stepanek was forced to hang up his racket trailing 2-6, 3-5.
The season has not been kind to the man who once dated former world No.1 Martina Hingis. A back injury scuppered the start of his year, while he also underwent neck disc surgery on 21 January and this afternoon there was a sense that all was not well with the wily Czech who let his opening service game slip away with a rare, mis-timed drop shot that barely reached the net.
Such mistakes would prove dangerous against Janowicz who showed he meant business from the off – hitting three blistering winners down the line to cast him in a winning first game position. The 6ft 8 in Pole, who has enjoyed a stellar 12 months since making his Wimbledon debut here last year where he won through qualifying to reach the third round, has a game particularly suited to grass.
A big hitter off both sides, Janowicz’s third round singles appearances at both the Australian Open and Roland Garros this year have helped propel him to a career high of 22, and this afternoon he showed why, striking 135mph balls that forced the line judges to duck on more than one occasion.
The man from Lodz was in full flow when Stepanek called on the trainer trailing 2-4. Much taping and massaging followed but the volatile Pole, whose notorious outburst over a disputed line call at the Australian Open in January received over one million hits on YouTube, began to grow frustrated.
The 24-year-old could not wait any longer. Having sat in his chair for the best part of five minutes he then walked to the other side of the court before the trainer had finished patching up Stepanek. There he began executing an array of split steps, lunges and racket swinging in a bid to psyche himself up. It worked. Two games later the set was his.
While Janowicz was rarely threatened on his service games, Stepanek always looked in trouble but it wasn’t until the seventh game that the Pole converted the opportunity. By the ninth the contest was over – Janowicz generating 27 winners compared to just six for the Czech.
After the match, Janowicz admitted he was a little disappointed with the way the match had ended. “I was hoping... to win this match normally,” he said, before adding that he was pleased with his performance.
“Today I felt really good... Especially from baseline I was really confident. I was hitting the ball pretty well, pretty hard... I was serving good... I think this was my best match on grass so far. I’m looking forward for the next match already.”
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
20:19It was the wackiest of Wimbledons with the most unlikely of headline-makers: Sergiy Stakhovsky, Steve Darcis, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Kimiko-Date Krumm, Jerzy Janowicz, Sabine Lisicki, Marion Bartoli...View all