By HOWARD FENDRICH, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — The day began, oddly enough, with word that Roger Federer's orange-soled shoes did not conform to Wimbledon's all-white dress code and would need to be replaced.
It ended, shockingly enough, with Federer losing in the second round at the All England Club, his earliest Grand Slam exit in a decade. It ended his record streak of reaching at least the quarterfinals in 36 consecutive major tournaments.
And in between? Oh, there was so much more to this unpredictable Wednesday, including four-time major champion Maria Sharapova's loss to a qualifier, and the injuries that forced seven players to leave because of withdrawals or mid-match retirements, believed to be the most in a single day at a Grand Slam tournament in the 45-year Open era.
In that group: second-seeded Victoria Azarenka; sixth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga; Steve Darcis, the man who stunned 12-time major champion Rafael Nadal in the first round; and 18th-seeded John Isner, who will forever be remembered for winning a 70-68 fifth set in the longest match ever, more than 11 hours. This time, Isner lasted all of 15 minutes, stopping in the third game after hurting his left knee.
Federer, Sharapova and Azarenka were three of seven players who have been ranked No. 1 that departed in a span of about 8½ hours. They also were among 12 seeded players heading home.
Most remarkable of all, of course, was Federer's 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5) loss to 116th-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky in the day's last match on Centre Court. Federer hadn't been beaten this early at a Grand Slam tournament since the first round of the French Open on May 26, 2003, back before he owned a single trophy from any of the sport's most important sites.
Now his collection is 17 total, with seven from Wimbledon, including last year's.
"This is a setback, a disappointment, whatever you want to call it," Federer said. "Got to get over this one. Some haven't hurt this much, that's for sure."
In addition to the hard-to-believe results and the slew of injuries, there was all manner of sliding and tumbling on the revered grass courts, prompting questions about whether something made them more slippery.
"Very black day," summed up 10th-seeded Marin Cilic, who said a bad left knee forced him to pull out of his match.
One had to wonder what Thursday might bring. The Day 4 schedule featured defending champion Serena Williams, who took a 32-match winning streak into the second round against Caroline Garcia; last year's runner-up, No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska; 2011 Wimbledon winner Novak Djokovic; and 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro.
They were to take the court knowing that after three days of the two-week tournament — merely halfway through the second round — a total of five of the 10 highest-seeded women were gone, along with four of the top 10 men.
"Bizarre," said 17th-seeded Sloane Stephens of the U.S., who stuck around by winning her match 8-6 in the third set. "I don't know what's going on."
No one did.
One hypothesis making the rounds: The grass is different because there is a new head groundsman at the All England Club, Neil Stubley (keep in mind, though, that he's been helping prepare the courts here for more than 15 years, albeit with a less distinguished title).
Another popular idea was that the recent weather — it's been in the 60s and humid, but without a drop of rain so far — is affecting traction.
"I don't know if it's the court or the weather. I can't figure it out," said two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka, who said she bruised a bone in her right leg when she slipped on the turf in her victory Monday and couldn't face Flavia Pennetta on Wednesday. "It would be great if the club or somebody who takes care of the court just would examine or try to find an issue so that wouldn't happen."
Sharapova managed to finish her match, at least, despite losing her footing a few times, but told the chair umpire the conditions were dangerous.
"After I buckled my knee three times, that's obviously my first reaction. And because I've just never fallen that many times in a match before," said the four-time major champion, noting that she thought she might have strained a muscle in her left hip.