By Erik Gudris | Wednesday, June 30, 2021
Wimbledon tournament organizers are defending the event’s conditions after several players retired from their matches after slipping on the famous lawn courts.
Seven-time champion Serena Williams retired with a leg injury after slipping on Centre Court in her first round match on Tuesday against Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus.
France’s Adrian Mannarino also retired after injuring his knee before the start of the fifth set in his first round match with eight time champion Roger Federer.
Top seed Novak Djokovic and two-time winner Andy Murray also slipped in their opening round matches on Centre Court.
Federer, after his match, said the tournament referee asked him about his thoughts on the playing conditions on Centre Court.
“I do feel it feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof,” Federer said. “I don’t know if it’s just a gut feeling. You do have to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down. I do feel it’s drier during the day. With the wind and all that stuff, it takes the moist out of the grass.”
“I feel for a lot of players it’s super key to get through those first two rounds because the grass is more slippery, it is more soft. As the tournament progresses, usually it gets harder and easier to move on,” Federer added.
Officials from the All England Club released a statement that all courts were reviewed and approved for play before the start of the event that was cancelled last year due to the global pandemic.
“Each grass court is checked by the Grand Slam Supervisors, Referee’s Office and Grounds team ahead of play commencing, and on both days of the Fortnight they have been happy with the conditions and cleared the courts for play,” officials said in the statement.
Officials also cited ongoing rain in the London area as the main reason for the grass courts to be more moist than usual. Both roofs on Centre Court and Court No. 1 were closed for the first two days, and that added more humidity to courts as well.
“The weather conditions on the opening two days have been the wettest we have experienced in almost a decade, which has required the roof to be closed on Centre Court and No.1 Court for long periods. This is at a time when the grass plant is at its most lush and green, which does result in additional moisture on what is a natural surface,” officials added in their statement.
Players having issues with the grass courts in the early days of the event is nothing new. In 2013, multiple players including Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova suffered injuries while slipping on the courts. In 2017, extreme hot weather that year caused the courts to be extra dry and hard, also resulting in players questioning the court conditions.
World No. 1 Djokovic fell early today facing Kevin Anderson in a second-round rematch of the 2018 Wimbledon final before finding his footing and gliding to a 3, 3 and 3 victory.
Afterward, Djokovic suggested the transition from red clay to green grass prompted the falls that helped him get acquainted with the grass.
“Definitely had a very close contact with the grass in the first match and also in the second one. A few falls, maybe more than I would like,” Djokovic said. “But I don’t think it’s about courts. Obviously it was raining for few days. Maybe first match under roof, the humidity affects the moist, the kind of surface of the grass, and it becomes a bit more slippery than in normal circumstances.
“But I think the fact that I didn’t play on grass courts for two years, the fact that I’m coming from several months of clay court that is a surface completely different in terms of movement and bounce and everything to the grass, the surface in which you slide at all times, I think I’m still adjusting my movement, adapting myself to this surface. It’s been, as I said, only two matches.”
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