Maria Sharapova "has led criticism of the condition of the Wimbledon courts," after she slipped three times during a lose to Michelle Larcher de Brito, according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. A record seven players pulled out due to injury Wednesday. Sharapova "was one of several stricken players who cast doubt on the courts after a spree of falls, retirements and withdrawals." Sharapova, who fell three times on the same spot on the baseline, could be seen mouthing: "How many more times?" The broadcast microphones also picked up the former champion saying: "This court is dangerous." Although All England Club officials insisted that "there was nothing in their preparation of the courts that could have led to the freakish spate of withdrawals, that did not stop the players speculating." Kim Clijsters said that a new rule relating to the number of pimples allowed on the sole of the shoe "could also be a factor." But an All England Lawn & Tennis spokesperson said that "there had been no rule changes as regards footwear in recent years and nor had the grass used changed since 2001" (GUARDIAN, 6/26).
SLIP AND SLIDE: In London, Briggs & Rumsby reported Victoria Azarenka "attacked the All England Club for preparing slippery courts." Azarenka "fell painfully in her opening match on Monday against Maria Joao Koehler, letting out a blood-curdling shriek." Even though she managed to beat her opponent 6-1 6-2, her knee "has stiffened up over the last two nights, and she was forced to withdraw from the tournament on Wednesday morning." Asked on Monday if she felt there was anything different about the courts this year, Azarenka replied, "I’m wondering the same question because the court was not in a very good condition that day. My opponent fell twice; I fell badly; there were some other people who fell after. So I don’t know if it’s the court or the weather. I can’t figure it out. It would be great if the club or somebody who takes care of the court just would examine or try to find an issue so that wouldn’t happen" (TELEGRAPH, 6/26).
FIXING THE COURT: ESPN's Patrick McEnroe said while everybody "loves the way it looks" on the opening day of the tournament, Wimbledon officials moving forward are "going to have to seriously consider having a little bit more play in the week leading up" to the start of the event. ESPN’s Mary Joe Fernandez said that “perhaps there is something that can be done” to fix the courts, including changing the fact that Centre Court and Court One get "no play on (them) until the Championships." Fernandez: "You have to start getting someone to practice on it.” Meanwhile, ESPN’s Pam Shriver said, “I want to know what the shoe manufacturers are doing to test the grass court shoes as grass courts are changing and maybe the surfaces under the grass are being rolled more.” ESPN’s Brad Gilbert read a tweet from former tennis player Kim Clijsters about the All-England Club and said, “A few years ago they made a new rule about the position and the length of the studs on the shoes to protect the pristine grass.” ESPN’s Mike Tirico, on shoe regulations at Wimbledon: “There are very specific rules. We could bore you with diameter and pimple density here for a minute but needless to say, they are very careful about what exactly you can wear. But whatever people are wearing, it’s not working" ("Wimbledon," ESPN2, 6/26).
The All England Club "was forced to defend its ticketing policy" after Serena Willams "emerged on to Centre Court for her opening round match against Mandy Minella to swaths of unoccupied seats," according to Ashling O'Connor of the LONDON TIMES. Had the match not overlapped with some long corporate lunches, the world No. 1 "might have played in front of a full house." As it was, the biggest draw in the women’s game "could not persuade Britain’s movers and shakers to abandon their hospitality tents." Williams "tried to play down the sparse attendance rather than alienate her fans or the tournament organisers." She said, "I didn’t notice." Heather Watson "found it similarly difficult to muster the crowds to No. 2 Court as she was defeated by Madison Keys." It was the second successive day that "the large numbers of empty seats had attracted attention." Even Roger Federer began his '13 campaign "in front of a less than capacity crowd on Centre Court." TV presenter Gary Lineker tweeted, "Lots of empty seats on centre court. Corporate lethargy no doubt. What a waste of tickets so many could give their right arm for #wimbledon." A spokesperson from the All England Club said that "spectators would be expected to leave their seats at the start of an all-day event to get refreshments." An estimated 8,000 tickets "were sold on Monday morning before the queue closed" at 7:45am -- the earliest time in the tournament’s history (LONDON TIMES, 6/26).
HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS: In London, Jonathan Liew wrote to an increasing degree, Wimbledon "is a place of haves and have-nots." It is "common for debenture holders and corporate ticket-holders to arrive late or leave early, or fail to turn up at all." All of which "adds up to swathes of empty seats, just when the majority of television viewers are tuning in." Head across the road, however, and you "will find thousands of people who would gladly pay to fill those seats." You "join us now at the head of the famous Wimbledon queue, where the determined and the demented camp out for days in the hope of laying their hands on Centre Court tickets." The All England Club points out that corporate tickets "are limited as far as possible." On Centre Court, for example, public sales account for 53% of tickets, debenture holders 17% and hospitality 9%, with the rest "distributed among schools, players, officials, media and the Royal Box." It also "points to the established resale system, by which spectators leaving the grounds put their used tickets in red boxes by the exit." Their seats are then sold for £5 ($7.70), with "proceeds going to charity." It is "a nice system, and almost unique among major sporting events." But it "does not account for those who arrive late, or fail to show" (TELEGRAPH, 6/26).
Wimbledon officials have "demanded" Roger Federer "changes his grass court tennis shoes," according to Mike Dickson of the London DAILY MAIL. Federer's orange-soled shoes "contravene strict rules about players being clad from head to toe in gear that has to be almost totally white." His '13 Wimbledon Nike clothing line "involves orange trim around his personalised tracksuit with the famous RF logo that the shoes are meant to match." Serena Williams, who "also has custom made shoes, is believed to also have been similarly told to change to something more conventional." Tournament regulations state that manufacturers "must submit all clothing designs for inspection 90 days before the start, but there is often not quite the same formal scrutiny of footwear" (DAILY MAIL, 6/26).
WHITE OUT: Meanwhile, ESPN’s Pam Shriver noted Serena Williams wore “the same color tennis pants, all orange,” as Federer’s shoes during her first-round match Tuesday. Shriver: “Why is she allowed to wear her tennis pants that are all orange if Roger can’t have the soles of his shoes all orange?” ("Wimbledon," ESPN2, 6/26). A Wimbledon spokesperson said, "The rules state that players can wear any color underwear they like provided it is no longer than their shorts or skirt. Anything else must be white" (REUTERS, 6/26). The BBC reported in a bid to prevent such incidents, tournament regulations state that manufacturers "must submit all clothing designs for inspection some time before the start." However, there is "less intense scrutiny of shoes before play begins" (BBC, 6/26).
F1 CEO Bernie Ecclstone "has reportedly waived the Nürburgring's fee" of about €14M ($18.2M) to host the German F1 Grand Prix on July 7, according to the SID. Nürburgring administrator spokesperson Pietro Nuvoloni said, "We have reached an agreement with Mr. Ecclestone in a very quick fashion. We have agreed to not reveal any details." He also said that "it is anything but a gift from Ecclestone." Nuvoloni said, "We have agreed to a different financial scheme than in previous years in order to carry out the F1 race." He added he "could not confirm" the reported waive of the hosting fee because "it is false" (SID, 6/26).
The Australian Capital Territory government "is bidding to bring a rugby league Test match back to the capital to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli," according to Jon Tuxworth of the CANBERRA TIMES. ACT Sports Minister Andrew Barr said that the government had commenced talks with the National Rugby League "about Canberra's interest in hosting the Anzac Day rugby league Test between Australia and New Zealand in 2015, the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli." The ACT government "will release a report on Wednesday and is buoyed by the strong support for this year's Test on April 19, which attracted more than 25,000." The report is timely, with NRL CEO David Smith "visiting Canberra on Wednesday." Barr said, "We're looking at the possibility of bringing the match back to Canberra, and the next logical opportunity is 2015 and the Gallipoli centenary" (CANBERRA TIMES, 6/26).
Silverstone will sell tickets at the gate for this weekend's British Grand Prix "for the first time in nine years." The F1 venue is normally sold out at this stage, but Managing Dir Richard Phillips "is still predicting a good attendance" (BBC, 6/26). ... Golf Citizen members will receive a 25% discount on tickets for the 25th edition of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, to be held at Emirates Golf Club from Jan. 27-Feb. 2 (GULF TIMES, 6/26).