The members of the All England Club - organizers of the Wimbledon championship - would have shifted nervously in their seats when Serena Williams slipped on the Wimbledon turf on the second day of the championship. The 23-time Grand Slam champion subsequently retired injured after she was unable to carry on her game against Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, which was tied at three games each in the first set.
Those watching and responsible for the conditions of Centre Court would have known that the backlash of Williams’ forced retirement would be immense and in the age of social media, rather unforgiving. In fact, any hint of wrongdoing to the widely popular Williams would incur the wrath of those with an internet connection and so it began, with fans questioning why organizers would let the best of the world compete on what was increasingly being called an ice rink.
Serena Williams receives a standing ovation from the crowd at #Wimbledon
Williams was forced to retire in the first round of after sustaining an apparent injury. pic.twitter.com/exFZxJJZGh
— ESPN (@espn) June 29, 2021
The flames were fanned further when Andy Murray chimed in on Twitter with a somewhat watered-down version of the online conversation, but still enough to set off a fresh round of indignation. Then, Nick Kyrgios, known for frequenting tennis controversy, shared his thoughts on the matter.
In his first round match against Frenchman Ugo Humbert, Kyrgios, in typical fashion, ranted to the on court camera about the pristine grass surface. The Australian bemoaned the court and could be heard saying the following during a break in play: "That's grass-court tennis. They've made it slow. This isn't grass anymore. This is slow. It's a joke.”
Surprisingly, the commentators seemed to agree with Kyrgios’ outburst despite the centre court traditionally playing slower on the first two days of the championship each year.
Guys, @NickKyrgios has a message for you 🗣️
He resumes his suspended five-set epic against Ugo Humbert tonight.
— StanSportAU (@StanSportAU) June 30, 2021
The only time that Centre Court is used each year is for the two weeks of the Wimbledon championships. For the remaining 50 weeks, it remains inactive in order to keep it in pristine condition for the Grand Slam. Given that this is the case, it is always going to play quite slow for the first two days but typically picks up pace once the players have worn the grass down and the sun comes out.
Roger Federer seemed to agree, saying that a few falls on the slower conditions is more or less par for the course during the first 48 hours. The Swiss legend went on to say that this is why the initial rounds of the Wimbledon championship are so integral to a player's chances of success, getting through them is paramount.
Federer, who is at 9/1 in the latest tennis odds to win Wimbledon, should perhaps be the voice of authority on this subject given that the 39-year-old has won the most men’s titles of the event in history. Indeed, out of all the opinions currently being offered, Federer’s is perhaps one of the best to listen to.
Undeniably, it is a massive shame that Williams had to withdraw. The Championships will be a lot poorer without the champion American there, but Williams' retirement is more of a freak accident than an overall indication of the standard of the conditions.