Wimbledon Head Groundsman Defends Court Conditions After Record-High Withdrawals
Wimbledon's new Head Groundsman Neil Stubley Thursday 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 Wednesday withdrew from the tournament after suffering a knee injury when she slipped during first-round play. Seven more players Wednesday "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 noted 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'S DEFENSE: In London, Josh Burrows reported Wimbledon officials Wednesday 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." 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).
SEEKING EXPLANATION: Also in London, Simon Briggs reported anyone who knows the All England Club "will appreciate that this is nonsense." You might as well accuse Rolex, one of the club’s sponsors, of supplying clocks with no minute hand. For a sense of Wimbledon's painstaking preparations, "consider that they will not introduce a new fertiliser or piece of machinery to the outside courts until they have trialled it for at least two years on the practice facility." From there, it will gradually creep toward Centre Court but "only after regular checks and measures." In short, this "is not the local croquet club." The mower blades "will not be set to the wrong height, any more than the keys to Holloway Prison will be left in the locks." How, then, do we "explain the spate of slips and falls in the first three days?" As head groundsman, Stubley points out, "grass courts are a living, breathing organism." Former British No. 1 Jeremy Bates said, "The courts are in pristine condition. I'm just not sure how used the modern players are to grass-court tennis" (TELEGRAPH, 6/27).