Maria Sharapova Leads Criticism Of Wimbledon Grass Courts, Calling Them 'Dangerous'
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).