Heartbreaking moment rocks Wimbledon
Russian Margarita Gasparyan suffered the cruellest of exits from Wimbledon, forced to retire because of injury in heartbreaking fashion with victory in sight.
The world No. 62 was hunting an upset of eighth seed Elina Svitolina and came to play, taking the first set 7-5 in 51 minutes. The absorbing affair continued in the second set, which had extended beyond an hour as Svitolina served at 6-5 to level the match.
Gasparyan has had knee troubles in the past and as the second set wound down, looked to be in increasing pain. Her movement was affected and she was unable to stand at 5-5, having to lie down on the grass as cramp was speculated to be the reason behind her collapse.
Gasparyan in a lot of pain now. Leg appears to be cramping after landing on it after a serve. She’s lying on the ground, but seemed to tell umpire she’s ok, just cramping. 5-5, 0-30. #Wimbledon— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) July 3, 2019
Gasparyan looks in so much pain. 😩— Nikhila (@kokudum) July 3, 2019
Gasparyan remained prone on the turf as Svitolina showed her class by bringing water to her fallen rival and comforting her at the baseline, as she waited for the physio to arrive - while the crowd on Court No. 3 watched on in stunned silence.
The unseeded star played on, barely managing to finish the game. She was no chance of chasing down a drop shot and looked incredibly ginger as she tried to get around the court.
In the changeover after Svitolina broke to take a 6-5 lead in the second, the physio treated Gasparyan's left quad but her day was done.
The 24-year-old was in tears as she limped to the net to retire and continued sobbing as she retreated to her chair, a picture of devastation, knowing her campaign had come to such a brutal end when a spot in the third round was at her fingertips.
When Gasparyan got back on her feet and walked off the court, the crowd gave her a brilliant ovation.
A win for her would have made it just the fourth time in 2019 she's made it past the second round of a tournament in 13 attempts.
Svitolina showed genuine concern for her opponent but Gasparyan's sad departure from the All England Club means the Ukrainian advances to the third round.
"Honestly, I was a little bit shocked," Svitolina said of Gasparyan's problems. "It's never nice to get this when someone is injured like that. It puts you a little bit off.
"At the end we'd expect that she would go and play. Yeah, it happened that way and really unfortunate for her.
"You give her some water, because I know when there is cramps you need to drink lots of water. Your muscles are contracting, so it's important just to drink lots of fluids.
"So that's why I gave her some water, because no one really did anything. I mean, we were trying to help, but, yeah, it's tough to react straigh taway."
Svitolina has already gone much further than she did in 2018, when she was knocked out in round one.
"Last year it was not so good but the year before it was a great run for me," Svitolina said earlier in the week after defeating Aussie Daria Gavrilova. "I think I can play well on grass. I just need to be really focused on what I have to do on court.
"That's very important for me just to take one match at a time, don't think too much of what's going on.
"Also be healthy. That's one of the goals, one of the priorities for me, to be fresh and to give myself a chance to actually play well, because I think, you know, I can play really good. It's just a matter of getting more time on the court and just be focused on what I have to do."
TOMLJANOVIC ROLLED IN HORROR SHOW
Ajla Tomljanovic warned rivals that a rampant Victoria Azarenka may be returning to her deadly best after falling prey to the former world No. 1 in a Wimbledon rout.
Azarenka, on the comeback trail after having her first child, powered past the Australian 6-2 6-0, reeling off the last 12 games of the match with a ferocious back-court assault.
"It felt like it was vintage Vika out there today," Tomljanovic said.
"I don't know how long it's been since she's been on her comeback but I just think today there was no up and down from her, which is what she was so good at when she was No. 1 and winning slams.
"She would get ahead and not give you any room to breathe. She's offensive when she can to be, (has) great defence, mixes up most of her returns.
"She doesn't have many holes when she's playing like this."
Tomljanovic broke Azarenka to gain a 2-0 lead in the opening set, but had no answer to the Belarusian's firepower once the dual Australian Open champion found her range.
Despite the defeat, 25-year-old Tomljanovic is set to climb to No. 40 in the world after the tournament, just one place below her career-high ranking, after reaching the second round at Wimbledon for the first time since 2015.
With Tomljanovic out, top seed Ashleigh Barty, who faces Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck on Thursday, is Australia's last female hope in the Wimbledon singles.
Azarenka, who is partnering Barty in the doubles at the All England Club this year, will play either fellow former world No. 1 Simona Halep or another Romanian in Mihaela Buzarnescu on Friday.