Wimbledon Head Groundsman Defends Court Conditions After Record-High Withdrawals
Wimbledon's new Head Groundsman Neil Stubley today said that he is "'100 percent happy' with the grass courts despite a string of players tumbling out of the tournament through injury," according to Paul Majendie of REUTERS. Women's No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka on Monday "called on the organisers to examine the state of the courts after taking a fall on what she called a slippery court one." Azarenka yesterday withdrew from the tournament after suffering a knee injury when she slipped during first-round play. Seven more players yesterday "joined the Wimbledon casualty list in what was a record number for one day at a Grand Slam tournament." Stubley said, "We are still confident this morning coming in that we are still producing the best tennis courts in the world." He added the playing surface is "no different to any other year." Maria Sharapova was "overheard on the court microphone calling her court 'dangerous' as she slipped a number of times" before eventually losing her second-round match. Asked about Sharapova's comment, Stubley said, "It's her opinion. Lleyton Hewitt played on the court an hour before and thought it was fine." Majendie notes this year's Wimbledon marks Stubley's "first time in charge since the retirement of long-time groundsman Eddie Seward." Stubley said, "We are fully confident that we have prepared them how they should be prepared every year. By day four, as far as I am concerned, they are wearing exactly how they should be" (REUTERS, 6/27). Wimbledon officials yesterday issued a statement "assuring players that the surfaces are no different to previous years." The statement read in part, “There have been no changes in the preparation of the courts and as far as we are aware the grass court surface is in excellent condition. In fact we believe that it is drier than last year when the prevailing conditions were cold and wet" (LONDON TIMES, 6/27).
PLAYERS' TWO CENTS: The GUARDIAN's Owen Gibson notes Sharapova, who "fell three times on the same spot on the baseline" as Caroline Wozniacki, could be seen mouthing: 'How many more times?'" Michelle Larcher de Brito, who knocked Sharapova out in the second round, said, "There is a lot of dead grass at the top end that made it slippery. I tried to be careful and take small steps rather than trying to stop right away. It's a tough court to play on." Gibson writes the venue's grass courts are typically "more lush towards the beginning of Wimbledon fortnight and it was suggested that players who were not used to the surface may find the lack of purchase unfamiliar" (GUARDIAN, 6/27). In London, Josh Burrows notes as players "continued to hit the turf with regularity, Azarenka was vocal in questioning the condition of the grass." Azarenka said, “The court was not in a very good condition that day (day one). My opponent fell twice and I fell badly. I don’t know if it’s the court or the weather. I can’t figure it out. There is nothing I could have done to make that better. There is nothing I’ve done wrong that cost me to just withdraw from Wimbledon" (LONDON TIMES, 6/27). TENNIS.com's Peter Bodo wrote there is "no doubt that the courts, while always slick before they start to take their customary pounding during the fortnight, seem especially slippery this year." Sharapova "refused to blame the slick grass for the loss," but she was "clearly distracted" by it (TENNIS.com, 6/26). In N.Y., Filip Bondy writes under the header, "Maria Sharapova Slips, And Wimbledon Loses One More Star" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/27).
WEATHER REPORT SUITE: ESPN's Chrissie Evert said weather "has a lot to do" with the slippery conditions at Wimbledon because the area "had a rainy fall, a very, very cold winter. It rained before the tournament." ESPN's Chris Fowler added prior to the tournament, the courts "have to be uncovered so they can get water" and like "every lawn everywhere they're susceptible to the elements and people pointing to the unusual wetness of the autumn and the snow and rain in the winter. In fact, it's been the coldest spring in a half-century." Fowler: "You have to ask yourself what's different about this year than other years. The Olympic schedule is one thing, too. They couldn't immediately begin to prepare these courts for this year's championship ... because the Olympics were played here." ESPN's Darren Cahill noted the outside courts "get a lot of practice on them the week before Wimbledon starts and Centre Court and Court One do not so they're always a little more slippery, so maybe just a little change in getting some people onto these courts will help" ("Wimbledon," ESPN, 6/26).