Roger and out as seeds fall

Draw opens up for Murray as Federer joins Sharapova and Tsonga on scrapheap – but chiefs insist slippery court is not to blame

BRITAIN’S Andy Murray insists several difficult obstacles still block his path to a second consecutive Wimbledon final, despite the shock elimination of seven-time champion Roger Federer and withdrawals of top 10 seeds Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Marin Cilic, which blew the men’s singles draw wide open yesterday.

On an incredible day at SW19 the exit of Federer to Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky eclipsed the drama of seven players withdrawing due to injury – an all-time record for a single day at a grand slam – former champion Lleyton Hewitt losing to world No189 Dustin Brown, and four former women’s No1’s bowing out.

The Swiss superstar’s 6-7, 7-6, 7-5, 7-6 defeat on Centre Court was his earliest at Wimbledon since 2002 and ended his run of 36 consecutive grand slam quarter-finals.

It means Spain’s Nicolas Almagro, at No15, is the highest seed left in Murray’s half of the draw, but the Scot, who beat Yen-Hsun Lu 6-3, 6-3, 7-5, insists there are still plenty of tough challengers left in his way.

“There are top players still left in the tournament and there are a lot of young guys as well coming through like Ernests Gulbis and Jerzy Janowicz,” said Murray, who meets Tommy Robredo in round three tomorrow.

“Everybody was so obsessed with how the draw was before the tournament started, now everybody wants to change their views on it because a few guys have lost. I’ll just concentrate on my next match.”

Federer dismissed the notion that slippery courts had anything to do with his exit, on a day when Wimbledon officials were forced to defend the playing surfaces due to complaints from several top players.

“The court preparation has been to exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years,” a statement said. “The courts are almost identical to last year, as dry and firm as they should be.”

Those to air their concerns included No3 seed Maria Sharapova, who described the Court Two surface as “dangerous” during her surprise second round exit to Michelle Larcher De Brito.

Federer insisted he “would not panic” after his defeat, the first to a player outside the top 100 in any tournament for eight years, but did not try to hide his bitter disappointment.

“Some defeats in finals haven’t hurt this much,” he said. “I thought I had my opportunities, had the foot in the door. But when I had the chance I couldn’t do it.”