<
>

Despite slips, All England board member Tim Henman says Wimbledon court preparation 'as good as it has always been'

play
Serena slips, fights back tears as she is forced to retire in first set (1:49)

Serena Williams is unable to continue after an injury and is forced to withdraw during the first set in her match vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich. (1:49)

All England Lawn Tennis Club board member and former player Tim Henman defended the surfaces at Wimbledon after Serena Williams and Adrian Mannarino were forced to retire due to injuries suffered when they slipped on Centre Court.

The first two days of the tennis championship have been severely impacted by rain, which has seen many games postponed and the Centre Court nearly always covered by the roof.

Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have also mentioned the slipperiness of the surfaces in postmatch interviews.

"I'm not going to stand here and say that it hasn't been slippery, because that's what the players have said, that's what we've seen," Henman told the BBC. "The one element that has been different is the weather. In the weeks leading up to it, it's been pretty overcast, it's been pretty wet, so the plant itself on the court, the grass, there's always going to be a little bit of moisture in those first couple of days."

Henman went on to say, "It's about controlling the controllables, and so in terms of the preparation of the surface and the science and looking at all the readings, we have all that data.

"Wimbledon will always leave no stone unturned, and we hope that there are no more injuries," he said. "As far as the preparation of the courts, it is as good as it has always been."

Williams had to retire from her first-round match Tuesday on Centre Court, after slipping with a 3-1 lead in the first set. Williams' coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, said in a text Wednesday morning to ESPN's Chris McKendry: "Apparently the injury is at the top of her hamstring, in the glute."

Mannarino, who was playing against Federer, earlier was also forced to retire as a result of a similar fall. Due to rain, the roof had been closed.

As the third day of play began Wednesday, footing on the grass continued to be an issue. Bianca Andreescu, Djokovic, American John Isner and at least one ball kid were among those taking tumbles, but all avoided serious injury.

"I didn't slip just once; I slipped like six times," Andreescu said. "The courts are super slippery. I have only played here once before, but they weren't like this at all. I spoke to a couple other players, and they said it's not that normal. But this is something we can't really control."

Asked about his connection with the Centre Court crowd after his second victory there this week, Djokovic joked: "I seem to be having a really nice connection with the grass."

The five-time champion at the All England Club chuckled at his own line, then added, "I don't recall falling this much in the first two matches of Wimbledon."

No. 1-seeded Djokovic lost his footing at least five times while beating Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.

The head groundsman at Wimbledon, Neil Stubley, also defended the preparation of the courts for the first tournament to be held at the iconic ground in two years.

"The difficulty we have is that we are a two-week event and we're playing on a living surface and it's about ... trying to make it survive the championships," he told Wimbledon radio Wednesday, adding that he didn't think the court was dangerous.

"Because it's a natural surface, there's always a risk you can fall. After the first few days, that risk should [ease].

"I believe this is the first time when we have had the roof closed on Day 1."

He said he didn't think there was anything more to do mitigate any risks. "Unfortunately it's just one of those things at the start of the championships, that you try to set the courts up for the best that you can and then Mother Nature always has the final say and we just kind of have to adapt to what the weather's doing and just make sure we're doing the best we can."

After Williams' injury, Murray tweeted: "Brutal for @serenawilliams but centre court is extremely slippy out there. Not easy to move out there."

Federer, who was informed of Williams' injury during his postmatch news conference, said that players had to move "very, very carefully" on the court.

"I do feel it feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof," he said. "I don't know if it's just a gut feeling. You do have to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down.

"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 AELTC also released a statement Tuesday defending the courts, saying they were prepared "to exactly the same meticulous standards as previous years" and added the weather had been some of the worst experienced in a decade.

"Each grass court is checked by the Grand Slam Supervisors, Referee's Office and Grounds team ahead of play commencing, and on both days of the fortnight they have been happy with the conditions and cleared the courts for play.

"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. 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.

"With each match that is played, the courts will continue to firm up.

"The Grounds team and Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) take hardness readings every morning in order to ensure that the courts have the right level of moisture and are playing consistently.

"Our long-serving Grounds team have experienced nearly every combination of weather conditions possible. They keep abreast of and utilize the latest grass court technologies, prepare for every weather eventuality and react to the current conditions on a daily basis.

"We will continue to monitor these readings and adjust our care plan for the grass appropriately."

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.