Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic called for Wimbledon to change their rules after both their opponents — Alexandr Dolgopolov and Martin Klizan — retired owing to injuries, but insisted on the Grand Slam not shortening the format.
Within the space of 70 minutes, Klizan and Dolgopolov called it quits in front of the 15,000-strong crowd, leaving the centre court schedule done and dusted by 4.50 pm BST. Many observers accused them of being selfish as they cheated the fans and denied fit players a place in the main draw.
Djokovic was leading 6-3, 2-0 when Klizan suffered a calf injury, while Dolgopolov succumbed to an ankle injury in his first-round match at 6-3, 3-0 down to Federer.
It was an odd day in the men's singles department as Klizan and Dolgopolov were two of the seven men who were forced to withdraw from their first-round clashes, with Viktor Troicki and Janko Tipsarevic both spending less than 20 minutes on the court.
"There's got to be a rule for guys who come out clearly not giving or able to give 100 percent. It's no good for anyone," tennis great John McEnroe said while commentating on the BBC.
"There are guys waiting in there, the lucky loser will be looking... and thinking he could have played on Centre Court at Wimbledon," he added.
The centre court crowd had seen just 83 minutes of action involving the two men who have won 10 Wimbledon titles between them.
To this, Federer pleaded with Grand Slams not to be panicked into reducing matches to best-of-three sets after injured players were accused of taking the money.
"I felt like there was a bit of a letdown from the crowd. They couldn't believe that it happened again, exactly the same situation. I feel for the crowd. They're there to watch good tennis. At least they see the two of us who gave it all they had," said the Swiss legend.
"They saw other players that tried at least. They put in another match on centre court. It's unfortunate that it happened today like this," he added.
There is a rule on the main ATP Tour, but not at the Slams, that an injured player can give up his place to a lucky loser from qualifying while keeping the prize money. The thinking behind the move is to preserve the integrity of a tournament and prevent fans from feeling short-changed. The first round losers will reportedly receive £35,000 ( Rs 29,26,294 approx).
But Federer does not want to see the Slams opt for the best-of-three sets format rather than the traditional best-of-five.
"I hope it doesn't happen. But I believe that more players clearly would finish their matches," said Federer who is bidding for a record eighth Wimbledon title.
"A player should not go on court if he knows he should not finish. The question is, did they truly believe they were going to finish. If they did, I think it's okay that they walk on court. Otherwise, I feel they should give up the spot.
"The ATP has adjusted its rule. Maybe the slams should have a look at what they could do for the players to make it just a little bit easier."
Meanwhile, Djokovic said he backed the ATP rule being used at the Slams but also refused to criticise opponents who fail to finish.
"I support that kind of rule. It's really odd that Roger's (Federer) result and my result more or less was the same. It doesn't happen often really. This tournament has a special place in players' careers," said the Serbian.
The aura of Wimbledon has probably always been the strongest of any tournament. I'm sure that most of the players on the tour, if not all, feel that. Especially if you walk out on the Centre Court, there is a responsibility," he added.
However, Dolgopolov and Tipsarevic insisted that they were not playing just for money.
"I've made enough money, I've had a long career, I've been top 20. If I know it's a risk for my body, I don't go there to just step on court. I practised yesterday, it was okay. I was comfortable, I had no problem going on court for sure. I was quite confident with the foot," Dolgopolov was quoted by saying the Irish Examiner.
"If a guy who all his life is playing Challengers suddenly has the chance to play in the Wimbledon main draw, where a first-round loss is £35,000, I don't think anybody has the right to judge him," said Tipsarevic, who lasted just 15 minutes against Jared Donaldson, winning five points in five games.
America's John Isner said players owed it to the fans to stay and fight on court for as long as possible.
"If it's excruciating pain, okay, you can't play," said Isner who famously played an 11-hour match spread over three days to beat Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon seven years ago.
"If something is tweaked here or there and you feel like you can give it a decent go without hurting yourself, I think they should stay out there and I think you owe it to the fans.
"I know the Wimbledon Centre Court didn't get their money's worth today. That's for sure."
With inputs from AFP
Published Date: Jul 05, 2017 06:12 pm | Updated Date: Jul 05, 2017 06:18 pm