Tennis: Slip-slide courts blamed for record withdrawal toll

The All England Club came under heavy fire for the state of its grass courts yesterday after Wimbledon had the most withdrawals from a tournament in a single day in the Open era.

Seven players pulled out because of injuries and others were hurt falling during matches as a trail of destruction threatened to seriously affect both singles draws.

Third seed and 2004 champion Maria Sharapova slipped three times and required lengthy treatment to a hip after one of them.

She was heard to mutter, "this court is dangerous" during her straight-sets second-round loss to Michelle Larcher De Brito, who said: "There's a lot of grass that has been cut and the dead grass hasn't been swept off so it's made it quite slippery. It is a tough surface."

In the match immediately before Sharapova's, Caroline Wozniacki needed treatment to her left ankle having already hurt her right one.

She said: "Normally on the grass you can expect to slide on the sides with your foot, but not really when you have a full grip underneath with your shoes. You should be able to stand comfortably."

No 2 seed Victoria Azarenka joined in the criticism after she was forced to pull out of her second-round match as a result of injury sustained slipping on Court No 1 on Tuesday, saying: "It would be great if someone who was responsible for these things looked at it because there's nothing that I did wrong to cause me to slip."

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was the highest-profile men's casualty, pulling out at two sets to one down against Ernests Gulbis with a knee injury.

His withdrawal followed those of Rafael Nadal's conqueror Steve Darcis, John Isner, Radek Stepanek, Marin Cilic and Yaroslava Shvedova.

All England Club chief executive Richard Lewis stood by the quality of the Wimbledon grass, saying there was no reason to think it was to blame for the withdrawals.

"Many players have complimented us on the very good condition of the courts," he said.

"The court preparation has been to exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years and it is well known that grass surfaces tend to be more lush at the start of an event."

- Daily Telegraph UK

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