Are the courts to blame for Wimbledon's injuries and withdrawals?
Fingers were pointed at the surface after fall of top players, but there are few grounds for concern
How big a factor was the state of the courts for the record seven withdrawals in one day and the defeats of Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki?
Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka both criticised the state of the courts. Sharapova fell three times on No 2 Court, where Wozniacki also took a tumble, though the Dane was reluctant to blame the surface. That court may have an issue, but there is little evidence there is any significant problem elsewhere. Azarenka, who withdrew, hurt her right knee on Monday when she slipped on Court One. Another who pulled out, Steve Darcis, hurt his shoulder diving to hit a shot on the same court but refused to blame the surface. The other withdrawals – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, John Isner, Marin Cilic, Radek Stepanek and Yaroslava Shvedova –mostly blamed pre-existing physical problems or one-off injuries that were not caused specifically by slipping on the grass.
Q. So how come there have been so many retirements and withdrawals?
The next day or two should tell us whether there is a serious problem with the courts. The evidence so far would suggest that the spate of retirements and withdrawals was little more than a freak sequence of events. There was a similar rash of pull-outs at the 2011 US Open, when 17 players quit during the tournament, including nine in the first round. For a few days there was talk of the calendar being too demanding, but the fuss soon died down. By the weekend the courts here will probably no longer be a subject of debate.
Q. Don't players always slip on grass courts?
Yes. The courts at the All England Club are always particularly slick in the first week but become less of a problem – in terms of their slipperiness – as the surface wears during the tournament. Every year players have a bit of trouble with their footing in the early rounds at Wimbledon.
Q. Has the weather been a factor in the condition of the courts?
It would be a surprise if it hasn't after one of the coldest springs in living memory, though the All England Club insists that the courts are in perfect condition. Colder weather early this week could well have had an effect with regard to the injuries. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pointed out that cold conditions can make players more prone to injury.
Q. Are the players fit enough?
There has been a feeling within the game that the big increases in prize-money at Grand Slam events might tempt players to compete even if they are not fully fit. Players who lose in the first round of singles here this year earn £23,500, which is more than some may earn in a year.
Q. Wimbledon has a new head groundsman. How well will he have slept?
Neil Stubley had a hard act to follow when he took over last year from Eddie Seaward, who was head groundsman for 20 years and had the highest of reputations. However, it is not as though 44-year-old Stubley is as green as the grass he tends. He has worked on the Wimbledon ground staff all his working life, became senior groundsman in 2002 and for the next 10 years led the team's day-to-day work. A lifetime's experience in the business will be telling him that this was a one-off.
Q. Will it help when Wimbledon moves back one week later in the calendar from 2015?
Undoubtedly. The biggest problem that players have on grass is having to adapt so quickly to the surface. Having a three-week gap between the end of the clay-court season and the start of Wimbledon will give everyone more time to find their feet on grass.
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