Wimbledon 2017: All England Club take unusual decision to shut Centre Court roof to protect turf amid safety row

The state of Wimbledon’s grass courts has come under fire this week

Luke Brown
Wimbledon
Friday 07 July 2017 14:05
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The All England Lawn Tennis Club took the unusual step of closing the Centre Court roof on Friday morning, in an attempt to protect the turf from the hot sunshine.

The last time the roof was shut for reasons other than heavy rainfall was in 2015, but clear skies and temperatures approaching the 30° symbol convinced the Wimbledon organisers to act.

Officials confirmed on Friday that the decision was taken to protect the court from the unusually high temperatures, ahead of Heather Watson’s third round match against Victoria Azarenka.

Rafael Nadal’s match against Karen Khachanov and Andy Murray’s against Fabio Fognini are also scheduled to take place on Centre Court on Friday.

The state of Wimbledon’s grass courts came under fire on Thursday, with the French player Kristina Mladenovic criticising the surface on Court 18 after her defeat by Alison Riske.

Following her defeat on Thursday night, Mladenovic claimed the court was not fit to be used.

Wimbledon Day Four: Djokovic sails into third round

Mladenovic said: “It's quite unique with your opponent, after two games, you both agree on stopping playing in a slam.

“You're asking the referee to tell you what's the rule if both players don't want to keep on playing. And the answer is that they just can't do anything, unfortunately, and you have to keep on playing. In case something bad happens...

“There's no grass. I don't know how to describe it. It's not even clay. It's not flat. I mean, I don't know.”

The decision was taken to shut Centre Court's roof

However, the All England Club quickly issued a statement rejecting her complaints.

“The grand slam supervisor (Pam Whytcross) and the assistant referee (Denise Parnell) both attended Court 18 during the Mladenovic vs Riske match, inspected it, and in their experienced view judged it playable as per normal,” their statement read.

“The head of courts and horticulture (Neil Stubley) and the head groundsman (Grant Cantin) were also in attendance.

“The court preparation has been to exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years. Grass is a natural surface and it is usual for the baselines to start to be showing signs of wear and tear four days into the championships.”

The French player was not happy with the state of the court

Mladenovic’s comments were made just hours after Bethanie Mattek-Sands had been carried off a different court on a stretcher, screaming in pain with a serious knee injury after stumbling while approaching the net.

The American is thought to have suffered knee ligament damage and faces a long road back to recovery.

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