All England Lawn Tennis Club board member and former player Tim Henman defended the surfaces at Wimbledon after Serena Williams and Adrian Mannarino were forced to retire due to injuries sustained by slips on Centre Court.
The first two days of the tennis championship have been severely impacted by rain, which has seen many games postponed and the Centre Court nearly always covered by the roof.
“It’s about controlling the controllables and in terms of the science and the readings, we have that data,” Henman told the BBC.
“Wimbledon will always leave no stone unturned and we hope there will be no more injuries but in terms of the preparation of the courts they are as good as they always have been.”
Williams had to retire from her first-round match Tuesday on Centre Court, after slipping with a 3-1 lead in the first set. Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, said in a text Wednesday morning to ESPN’s Chris McKendry: “Apparently the injury is at the top of her hamstring, in the glute.”
Mannarino, who was playing against Federer, earlier was also forced to retire as a result of a similar fall. Due to rain, the roof had been closed.
As the third day of play began Wednesday, footing on the grass continued to be an issue. Bianca Andreescu, Djokovic, American John Isner and at least one ball kid were among those taking tumbles, but all avoided serious injury.
“I didn’t slip just once; I slipped like six times,” Andreescu said. “The courts are super slippery. I have only played here once before, but they weren’t like this at all. I spoke to a couple other players, and they said it’s not that normal. But this is something we can’t really control.”
The head groundsman at Wimbledon, Neil Stubley, also defended the preparation of the courts for the first tournament to be held at the iconic ground in two years.
“The difficulty we have is that we are a two-week event and we’re playing on a living surface and it’s about … trying to make it survive the Championships,” he told Wimbledon radio Wednesday.
“Because it’s a natural surface, there’s always a risk you can fall. After the first few days that risk should [ease].
“I believe this is the first time when we have had the roof closed on Day 1.”
Following Williams’ injury, Murray tweeted: “Brutal for @serenawilliams but centre court is extremely slippy out there. Not easy to move out there.”
Federer, who was informed of Williams’ injury during his postmatch news conference, said that players had to move “very, very carefully” on the court.
“I do feel it feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s just a gut feeling. You do have to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down.
“This is obviously terrible that it’s back-to-back matches and it hits Serena as well. Oh, my God, I can’t believe it.”
The AELTC also released a statement Tuesday defending the courts, saying they were prepared “to exactly the same meticulous standards as previous years” and added the weather had been some of the worst experienced in a decade.
“Each grass court is checked by the Grand Slam Supervisors, Referee’s Office and Grounds team ahead of play commencing, and on both days of the fortnight they have been happy with the conditions and cleared the courts for play.
“The weather conditions on the opening two days have been the wettest we have experienced in almost a decade, which has required the roof to be closed on Centre Court and No.1 Court for long periods. This is at a time when the grass plant is at its most lush and green, which does result in additional moisture on what is a natural surface.
“With each match that is played, the courts will continue to firm up.
“The Grounds team and Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) take hardness readings every morning in order to ensure that the courts have the right level of moisture and are playing consistently.
“Our long-serving Grounds team have experienced nearly every combination of weather conditions possible. They keep abreast of and utilize the latest grass court technologies, prepare for every weather eventuality and react to the current conditions on a daily basis.
“We will continue to monitor these readings and adjust our care plan for the grass appropriately.”
Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.