Wimbledon 2017

Grass slam on a slippery slope

Bethanie Mattek-Sands being carried away on a stretcher after suffering a knee injury during her second-round match against Romania's Sorana Cirstea on Court 17.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands being carried away on a stretcher after suffering a knee injury during her second-round match against Romania's Sorana Cirstea on Court 17.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Organisers defend condition of courts amid concerns after Mattek-Sands' injury

LONDON • A dark mood has fallen over Wimbledon after Bethanie Mattek-Sands suffered a sickening knee injury on Thursday that sparked complaints about the state of the courts at the All England Club and the speed with which the American wild card was treated.

Tournament organisers swiftly defended the condition of the courts and denied that Mattek-Sands had not been treated quickly enough.

The 32-year-old could be heard crying and screaming out for help before she was attended to and taken to hospital after her right knee gave way early in the third set of her second-round match against Romania's Sorana Cirstea on Court 17.

There was also concern on Court 18 in the match between Kristina Mladenovic, the 12th seed, and Alison Riske.

Mladenovic gave an angry press conference after she lost in three sets to the unseeded American, revealing that both players had unsuccessfully asked the umpire to stop play because they felt the court's surface was unsafe.

The French player said she will have a scan on a knee injury after slipping and claimed that there was no more grass and even a hole in the ground on Court 18.

"You ask the referee to tell you what's the rule if both players don't want to keep on playing," she said.

SAFETY FIRST

I don't want to call it negligence or anything, but I just hope nobody gets injured.

KRISTINA MLADENOVIC, claiming that there was no more grass on Court 18 which made it slippery, and that there was even a huge hole on the side of the court.

"And the answer is that they just can't do anything, unfortunately, and you have to keep on playing. I'm just honestly very happy and blessed that I didn't injure myself that much."

Asked what the particular issues with Court 18 were, Mladenovic replied: "First of all, the colour of the court. The fact that there's no more grass, the fact that the baseline where we are running, it's very slippery. So it makes it tough to put your strong footwork. You kind of have to run light and be careful, not to push or press too much, too hard, which is strange to play on.

"There was a huge hole on the sides where Pam (Whytcross), the referee, came to actually take pictures of it. I don't want to call it negligence or anything, but I just hope nobody gets injured."

The problems are being blamed on the dry weather.

"I'm not an expert at all on grass courts," Mladenovic said. "I guess the climate doesn't help, the fact that it's too nice, too hot, too sunny, makes everything very dry. That's what we got as an answer from the officials."

She added that the ninth seed, Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat the American Christina McHale, told her that playing on Court 2 was "horrible" and there has been lots of grumbling in the locker room.

Seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer agreed that the incidents were a worry.

"It's not a good sign, and you should always take the players' opinions seriously, especially when both say it," he said.

"But to postpone a match because of slippery courts, I have never heard that. It's a tough one."

SECOND THOUGHTS NEEDED

It's not a good sign, and you should always take the players' opinions seriously, especially when both say it.

ROGER FEDERER, on how the incidents are indeed a worry and that officials should not take the matter lightly.

Wimbledon denied suggestions from Cirstea that the emergency services were slow to respond to Mattek-Sands' injury.

"The first response to Court 17 was within one minute, by a qualified ambulance technician," a club statement said.

"The player was kept on court while pain relief was given. The player was then transferred to an ambulance and taken under emergency conditions to a hospital."

Mattek-Sands' screams left many spectators visibly shaken.

"It was heartbreaking to see her that way," Cirstea said. "I saw her knee out."

Tournament organisers said that Court 18 had been inspected by the Grand Slam supervisor and assistant referee and that they "in their experienced view judged it playable as per normal".

THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2017, with the headline 'Grass slam on a slippery slope'. Print Edition | Subscribe