The famous Centre Court of Wimbledon was finally open for play after a gap of two years. As per the tradition of the All England Club, World No.1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic opened proceedings at Centre Court. While the five-time Wimbledon champion did prevail in four sets, his frequent slipping and falling on the grass raised alarm about the treacherous conditions on the Centre Court.
It is not to be forgotten that in the past, Djokovic has slipped several times on the famous lawns at Wimbledon. That said, the frequency of his fall in the opening round was a matter of concern for all. “I don’t recall falling this many times on court. I was kind of slipping a few times on those breakpoints. Still finding my footing, I would say, on the grass that was quite slippery, quite moist. It was probably because of the roof,” Djokovic said after his first round match.
Former two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray too found playing on the Centre Court tough. “It is extremely slippy out there,” the Scot revealed after his opening round match on day one.
While former Wimbledon champions Djokovic and Murray remain unscathed, tragedy would unfold on day two of the Championships. Firstly, it was Frenchman Adrian Mannarino who was dictating play against 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer on Centre Court too was hard done by slippery conditions. At the end of the fourth set, the southpaw had a nasty fall which impacted his knees and even forced him to retirement, much to the disappointment of the fans and the organisers.
“Those first two matches are always extremely difficult. But it’s always been like this. I feel for a lot of players, it’s super-key to get through those first two rounds because the grass is more slippery, it is more soft. As the tournament progresses, usually [the court] gets harder and easier to move on,” Federer said after his first round escape.
But perhaps, seven-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams‘ fall during the early stages of her first round match was inarguably the worst moment of the day. It was indeed tragic to see the 39-year-old forcibly leaving the Centre Court after not being able to compete, following a fall on the baseline.
“I do feel it’s drier during the day. With the wind and all that stuff, it takes the moist out of the grass. But 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 eight-time champion further added.
Wimbledon Club statement on court conditions
Historically grass has been a slippery and tricky surface, given that it is a natural surface. In addition, the weather conditions can also add to the challenge of playing on grass. Since the tournament has been marred by rain for a few days now, the officials have been forced to keep the covers on the Centre Court and Court no.1. As a result, conditions become more humid, which in turn makes the grass more damp.
“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,” The All England Club said in a statement. “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.”