Players question Wimbledon’s slippery Centre Court surface

Serena Williams was the second retirement in a row on tennis’s most famous court

Adrian Mannarino slips, falls and injures himself whilst playing against Roger Federer in the first round of Wimbledon. Photograph: David Gray/PA

Adrian Mannarino slips, falls and injures himself whilst playing against Roger Federer in the first round of Wimbledon. Photograph: David Gray/PA

 

Andy Murray has joined a chorus of players raising concerns about Wimbledon’s Centre Court surface being too slippery after Serena Williams was forced to retire during her first-round match.

Williams, a 23-time grand slam champion, appeared to twist her ankle in the fifth game of her match against the Belarusian world No 100, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, and was forced to withdraw a game later after her body buckled as she tried to return a serve.

It was the second retirement in a row on tennis’s most famous court after the Frenchman Adrian Mannarino twisted his knee while he was two sets to one up against Roger Federer.

Reacting on social media, Murray said: “Brutal for Serena Williams but Centre Court is extremely slippy out there. Not easy to move out there.”

Federer, meanwhile, was in a press conference when he heard that Williams had been forced to retire. “Oh, my God, I can’t believe it,” he said. “It’s obviously terrible that it’s back-to-back matches and it hits Serena as well. You do have to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down.”

Speaking about Mannarino’s injury, Federer said: “It’s awful, it shows that one shot can change the outcome of a match, a season, or a career. He was the better player so I was a bit lucky.”

Federer said he felt the matches being under a roof had been a factor. “I do feel it’s drier during the day. With the wind and all that stuff, it takes the moisture out of the grass.”

Williams, seeded sixth, had arrived on court with her hamstring strapped up but appeared to be having few difficulties until she injured herself while rocking backwards on the baseline to hit a forehand.

After glaring intently at the turf, the seven-time Wimbledon champion went off for treatment and returned with a heavy limp. Tears filled her eyes as she thanked the crowd by touching her heart. But moments later her body buckled with the pain as she prepared to receive a return and she had to hobble off.

“I was heartbroken to have to withdraw after injuring my right leg,” said Williams. “My love and gratitude are with the fans and the team who make being on Centre Court so meaningful. Feeling the extraordinary warmth and support of the crowd when I walked on – and off – the court meant the world to me.”

Numerous players had warned about the slippery courts on the opening day of the tournament, including Novak Djokovic. But conditions appeared even worse on the second day, particularly on Centre Court.

Mannarino, the world No 41, was the first to suffer after having Federer in all sorts of trouble until a heavy fall in the fourth set. “I just slid down as it was really slippery,” the Frenchman said afterwards. “I heard a big crack and I knew straight away that I wouldn’t be able to do anything any more.

“I’m not used to playing on Wimbledon Centre Court. I didn’t have much time to practise before the match and the court definitely looked slippery to me. I was not feeling great. Every time I tried to push on my feet or change direction I was not comfortable with that.”

The young American Coco Gauff, who defeated Britain’s Fran Jones, also said she had been “slipping and sliding out there on the court”. She was watching in the gym when Williams was injured but had to turn away.

“It was not easy to watch,” she said. “I was in the gym stretching. I turned away because stuff like that makes me really emotional. I’m a big fan of Serena, even though I’m a competitor now. She’s the reason I started to play tennis. It’s hard to watch any player get injured, but especially her.” - Guardian

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