Not-so-per­fect turf

Fed­erer, Djokovic find some­thing wrong with the grass at Wim­ble­don

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

LON­DON — With a week still to play, Wim­ble­don’s grass courts are al­ready not the lush lawns play­ers are ac­cus­tomed to early in the tour­na­ment.

No­vak Djokovic no­ticed the ball bounc­ing dif­fer­ently in some patches.

Roger Fed­erer and his op­po­nent slipped dur­ing their third-round match.

The two past cham­pi­ons were won­der­ing what sort of work could be done on the mid­dle Sun­day, when there is no com­pe­ti­tion, so the court con­di­tions im­prove when ac­tion re­sumes with all 16 fourth-round sin­gles matches sched­uled for Mon­day.

“The first two matches I didn’t see any sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence. But I was hear­ing a lot of com­ments from the other play­ers. They were com­plain­ing. Es­pe­cially on the out­side courts,” Djokovic said af­ter beat­ing Ernests Gul­bis in straight sets on Cen­tre Court on Satur­day.

“To­day, I could see there is a dif­fer­ence in grass, in (the) turf it­self. It was a bit softer, I would say, es­pe­cially around a cou­ple of feet in­side and out­side, around the base­line area,” said Djokovic, a three­time cham­pion at the All Eng­land Club.

“I haven’t had that kind of ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore in Wim­ble­don, to be hon­est. The courts are al­ways per­fect here.”

Fed­erer fol­lowed Djokovic on Cen­tre Court and de­scribed it as “a tad slip­pery” af­ter los­ing his foot­ing dur­ing one point in a vic­tory over Mis­cha Zverev, who also took a tum­ble.

“But I didn’t feel like it was un­safe,” said Fed­erer, who has won seven of his record 18 ma­jor ti­tles at Wim­ble­don. “Maybe you don’t want play­ers to feel that way, be­cause the mo­ment you be­come scared of mov­ing prop­erly, it’s re­ally dif­fi­cult to play, I must ad­mit. The last thing we want to see is hor­ri­ble in­juries.”

Some play­ers voiced con­cerns about the court con­di­tions over the open­ing week, in­clud­ing Kristina Mlade­n­ovic of France and Ali­son Riske of the United States, who each fell early dur­ing their sec­on­dround match on Court 18 on Thurs­day.

Riske, who won the match, said after­ward that the dirt “is like ice”.

Mea­sure­ments taken through­out Wim­ble­don’s first week show the grass courts are as healthy as they have been in re­cent years, ac­cord­ing to Neil Stub­ley, the head of courts and hor­ti­cul­ture at the All Eng­land Club.

“We looked at the base­lines and the ar­eas that they thought there was an is­sue,” Stub­ley said. “We didn’t feel there was. The Grand Slam su­per­vi­sor and as­sis­tant ref­eree didn’t be­lieve that there was ei­ther. When you look at the com­par­isons of other courts ... they were in or around the same con­di­tion as the other courts.”

Very lit­tle rain has fallen over the first six days of the tour­na­ment, which Stub­ley said led to more wear on the courts.

Still, al­though he ac­knowl­edged the courts are un­der stress, he said there’s “not a doubt” they will hold up through­out Wim­ble­don’s se­cond week.

“Be­cause we have daily mon­i­tor­ing, we can keep a very tight rein on ev­ery­thing,” he said. “It never gets to the point where it’s ever go­ing to get away from us be­cause we’re on top of it ev­ery sin­gle day.”

Djokovic, how­ever, was sure that some­thing wasn’t quite the same as in the past.

“I’m sure they know what they’re do­ing. They know their job the best in the world. But you can see that there is a slight dif­fer­ence in the qual­ity of the grass,” he said. “This year seems like it’s a bit softer.”

Fed­erer noted: “They have time to fig­ure out how they’re go­ing to prep (the courts) for Mon­day.”

AN­DREW COULDRIDGE / REUTERS

Switzer­land’s Roger Fed­erer reaches for a fore­hand dur­ing his third-round vic­tory over Ger­many’s Mis­cha Zverev at Wim­ble­don on Satur­day. Seven-time cham­pion Fed­erer made the fourth round for the 15th time with a 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-4 win.

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