Azarenka blasts Wimbledon courts

LONDON - World No 2 Victoria Azarenka limped out of Wimbledon on Wednesday and blasted the state of the All England Club courts which she believes are compromising player safety.

The Australian Open champion withdrew just minutes before she was due on Centre Court to face Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta for a place in the third round.

A right knee injury, suffered in her first round win over Maria Joao Koehler of Portugal on Monday which left her in tears and requiring 10 minutes of treatment, put paid to her hopes after an MRI scan showed extensive bruising to the knee.

Her fall happened on Court One, the same arena where Steve Darcis knocked out Rafael Nadal.

Darcis, the world number 135, also fell, causing a shoulder injury which also forced him to withdraw from the tournament on Wednesday.

"The court was not in a very good condition that day. My opponent fell twice; I fell badly; there were some other people who fell after," said Azarenka.

"So I don't know if it's the court or the weather. I can't figure it out. It would be great if the club or somebody who takes care of the court would examine or try to find an issue so that wouldn't happen.

"There is nothing I could have done to make that better. There is nothing I've done wrong that cost me to just withdraw from Wimbledon."

Azarenka, a Wimbledon semifinalist in the last two years, said the incident had left her feeling frustrated and disappointed.

"I couldn't be any more disappointed," she added. "Wimbledon is a tournament I was looking so forward to. I love playing here.

"To not be able to play just because of bad luck is very, very frustrating.

"I cannot take out my frustration on the court or something because it's out of my hands. It's something that maybe can be looked at in the future," added the 23-year-old who had already suffered a right ankle injury earlier in the year.

Azarenka, who will lose her world No 2 ranking to Maria Sharapova after Wimbledon, was reluctant to put a date on when she will be back in action with the US Open just six weeks away.

But her sense of humour remained intact when asked if grass courts now represented her greatest fear.

"My biggest fear is heights, not grass court or anything else. And spiders," she said. - Agencies