Wimbledon 2021: Wimbledon defends state of courts after players' criticism & slips

By Harry PooleBBC Sport
Novak Djokovic
World number one Novak Djokovic hit the ground again during his second-round match on Wednesday
Wimbledon 2021 on the BBC
Venue: All England Club Dates: 28 June-11 July
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Wimbledon says its courts are "as good as they have always been" in response to mounting criticism as players continued to suffer falls on Wednesday.

Serena Williams and Adrian Mannarino retired injured on Centre Court following slips on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Australian Nick Kyrgios said the courts were a "joke" and too slow.

Former British number one Tim Henman, a member of the All England Club (AELTC) board, told the BBC: "It's about controlling the controllables."

Henman added: "In terms of the preparation of the surface - the science and the readings - we have all that data. Wimbledon will leave no stone unturned and we hope there will be no more injuries. The courts are as good as they have always been.

"The one thing that has been different this year is the weather. The courts do not get the chance to dry out. Add to that the fact the roof has been closed for the first two days and that is why you will see some slipping and sliding."

Speaking on BBC TV, three-time champion Boris Becker said: "The courts haven't been played on in two years. They are almost too perfect, too green and lush.

"Having said that, I've seen slips and slides every year in the first couple of days. I don't find it that unusual, it's just that we haven't been here [since 2019]. We're not used to seeing players slide like that. This is the grass court. It did rain a lot but the first couple of days it is always slippy."

The head of courts at Wimbledon, Neil Stubley, said: "It's obviously never nice to see [players fall]. With the roof being on it is taking a little longer for the moisture to be evaporated.

"Looking at the matrix from the courts, they are very similar to recent years. Naturally, it takes time through the start of the Championships to draw that moisture out. As the sun and wind dry the plant out, it becomes harder and the players feel a lot more confident under foot as we get into the second half of the first week."

'The courts are super slippery'

Adrian Mannarino
France's Adrian Mannarino led Roger Federer 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 3-6 4-2 when he slipped and injured his knee

Frenchman Mannarino led Roger Federer 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 3-6 4-2 when he was forced to retire through injury, with Federer suggesting the surface had become "more slippery under the roof" which was closed for large parts of the first two days at the Championships because of rain.

World number one Novak Djokovic said he did not recall "falling this many times on court" after taking several tumbles in his opener against Britain's Jack Draper on Monday, and he suffered more slips during his second-round match against Kevin Anderson on Centre Court on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Venus Williams said after her second round defeat by Ons Jabeur that she found it "too much" after her sister's fall a day earlier.

"I just couldn't watch it," Williams said. "I know exactly what that feels like when all your faculties are taken away, things you work hard for and earn, and suddenly life happens."

Earlier on day three, John Isner suffered a nasty fall during his match against Yoshihito Nishioka on court 18 but was able to continue, while Canadian fifth seed Bianca Andreescu slipped on several occasions during her first-round defeat by Alize Cornet.

"I didn't slip just once. I slipped like six times during the match," Andreescu said. "I felt my ankle a little bit, just for like two, three points but then it went away. It was fine.

"The courts are super slippery. I have only played here once before, but the courts weren't like this at all. I spoke to a couple of other players and they said it's not that normal, but this is something we can't really control."

However, following her second-round victory over Britain's Katie Boulter, Belarusian second seed Aryna Sabalenka suggested players "try to stay lower" to avoid slipping.

"If you stay really high, then it's getting a little bit more slippery. You're not moving well, you're not stepping right," she said. "When you try to be lower, like [move] softer, then it's not really slippery."

Meanwhile, Kyrgios, whose match against French 21st seed Ugo Humbert was suspended after the 23:00 BST curfew forced an end to play in the final set on Tuesday, criticised the speed of play on the courts.

"It should be fast in here. They've made it slow. This isn't grass anymore," said the Australian, who suggested the surface even required watering.

He was backed up by compatriot Jordan Thompson on Wednesday, who during his first-set tie-break against Norwegian Casper Ruud said: "It's comical this grass, it's not grass anymore!"

Kyrgios also fell awkwardly when his match resumed on Court One at 6-6 in the fifth set, but was able to carry on and reach the second round.

On the subject of the speed of the grass, Henman said: "The players will always be the best judges of the courts. In 2002 the grass changed and that was when the courts were much quicker. The new ryegrass is a tougher, more durable grass and so when the ball hits that it checks rather than skidding through.

"The reality is you will never please every player but these are the challenges the players face and also the tournament faces."

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