American tennis player Bethanie Mattek-Sands suffered a brutal injury while playing a singles match at Wimbledon on Thursday, and her opponent in the match is criticizing the response of emergency officials, who seemed slow to rush to help Mattek-Sands.
In the third set of the second round, Mattek-Sands, who is ranked 99th in the world, approached the net to return a shot from Romanian Sorana Cirstea. As she did so, however, her knee buckled beneath her and she fell to the grass turf, screaming in pain.
Cirstea approached the net and went over to Mattek-Sands, then backed away, seemingly in horror at the extent of her injuries. On the television broadcast, Mattek-Sands could clearly be heard screaming, “please help me, please, please.”
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“I freaked out. I have never seen such an injury before, the knee was really in a bad position. It was like something you see only in the movies,” Cristea told BBC News.
“I tried to comfort her but I panicked. I felt useless. All she kept saying was ‘Sorana, help me, help me.’”
The ESPN broadcast of the match cut away from Mattek-Sands before medics could be seen reaching her, but there seemed to be at least a 15-second delay between the moment she collapsed and she first received medical attention. To Cristea, that was too long.
“We should probably watch the whole video to see what happened but I was there and it felt forever,” Cristea said, according to the Mirror. “It took a really long time not only for the stretcher to get there but I would say she was on the ground for 10 to 15 minutes and for me that is really long.
“I went over and saw her knee out and turned around and told them to bring a stretcher because I think everyone froze. It was heartbreaking because she went into shock and it took a while until the medical team was there. For a while it was me, my husband and her (coach).”
According to a New York Times reporter, Mattek-Sands could still be heard screaming 15 minutes later.
In a statement to BBC News, the All England Club, which hosts Wimbledon, defended its response time.
“The first response to Court 17 was within one minute by a qualified ambulance technician,” the club said.
“The player was kept on court while pain relief was given. The player was then transferred directly to an ambulance and taken under emergency conditions to a hospital.”
Photos from the Sun show that Mattek-Sands received oxygen on the court, and as she was carted off the field on a stretcher, her knee was covered with a towel to hide the extent of her injuries.
According to ESPN, the injury not only forced Mattek-Sands to withdraw from the singles tournament, but will likely do the same for the doubles, where Mattek-Sands and her partner, Lucie Safarova, were expected to compete for their fourth straight Grand Slam title.
Safarova was later seen arriving at the court in tears.
On social media, users expressed horror and agreed with Cristea’s assessment that medical personnel took too long to respond. They also offered support for Mattek-Sands.