Roddick (back), Stepanek withdraw from Rome Masters semifinals

ROME -- The biggest losers at the Rome Masters on Saturday were the fans.

First Andy Roddick, then Radek Stepanek: Both quit shortly after their semifinal matches began.

Roddick pulled out with a back problem after falling behind 3-0 in the first set against Stanislas Wawrinka. Stepanek stopped while trailing Novak Djokovic 6-0, 1-0 after appearing affected by the heat.

Total elapsed time for the two matches: a wimpy 49 minutes.

"You don't want to have these kind of situations at big events," said Djokovic, who joined the chorus of players complaining that the schedule is too tough.

"The players are not getting injured for nothing, you know. There is a big reason why they're having these difficulties. I understand that because I was in that situation many times."

At the Monte Carlo Masters last month, Djokovic pulled out of his semifinal match against top-ranked Roger Federer with a sore throat.

Stepanek called for a trainer after the first set and had ice applied to his neck. He retired after one game in the second.

"I started feeling bad for the first time after practice this morning, and then I ate lunch and was feeling a little better," Stepanek said. "Once the match started, however, I started feeling worse and worse. I was dizzy and weak and couldn't play."

Roddick pulled up awkwardly after Wawrinka hit a forehand winner in the third game, then asked for a trainer on the changeover. He came back out and double-faulted, then quit.

"I felt a little something last night in my back when I was getting treatment. Then, one wrong movement and I had a complete spasm," Roddick said. "I can't really move my left arm right now. You can't really play around that."

Injuries have been a common theme all week at the Foro Italico.

Three-time defending champion Rafael Nadal suffered from a blister on his right foot in a second-round loss to Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Fernando Gonzalez, last year's finalist, pulled out of his third-round match with Nicolas Almagro citing a right leg injury, and Almagro withdrew in the quarterfinals against Djokovic with a wrist problem.

Argentine qualifier Juan Martin Del Potro withdrew in the first round against Andy Murray.

Five withdrawals set the record for the Rome tournament.

The ATP said it marked the first time in the history of the Masters Series that both semifinals ended with withdrawals. Tour officials could not say if it had ever happened in another tournament.

There have been some notable retirements in finals, with Justine Henin's withdrawal against Amelie Mauresmo in the 2006 Australian Open the most recent example. Henin pulled out while trailing 6-1, 2-0.

"It happens once in a while, but never anything like this -- a tournament without semifinals," said American tennis commentator Bud Collins, who attends the Rome tournament every year.

Collins pointed to the 1931 Wimbledon final, which was supposed to be an all-American matchup between Sidney Wood and Frank Shields. Shields injured his ankle in the semifinals and wanted to play the final, but his Davis Cup captain wouldn't let him so he could recover for a match the following week.

Davis Cup since has taken a back seat to the Grand Slams for most players, who complain now that there simply are too many tournaments and virtually no offseason. This year's schedule is even more cramped because of the Olympics.

"I've been saying for years: I think the schedule needs to be adjusted, and there needs to be a little bit of time to recover at the end of the year," Roddick said.

"I think this week it's probably coincidental. You can go a week without anybody doing it, and this week there was three or four. I put that up to coincidence."

Fans started whistling and booing after the day's second retirement, and an announcement was made that those in attendance would get 50 percent off the price of tickets for next week's women's tournament.

However, the top-ranked Henin already has withdrawn from the women's event, citing fatigue.

In the meantime, there is still the men's final Sunday. Djokovic holds a 3-2 career edge over Wawrinka, who won their only previous matchup on clay two years ago -- when Djokovic withdrew with breathing problems.