With his legs wide open, with his body on the floor or skidding sideways like a skier: tennis star Novak Djokovic showed off a complete array of slipping in his debut at the London Olympics.
Is the legendary grass at Wimbledon in good shape for the Olympic tennis tournament? “The court is different. When we were practicing outside, it seems like the same court and the same grass. When you go onto the match court, it’s totally different,” Agnieszka Radwanska, a second seed, complained after her surprising first round exit.
“It’s so slippery, it feels like it’s already used for two weeks at the end of the court,” she said.
Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic said she felt “a little bit on ice” in her loss to Serena Williams.
“I felt really unstable. Once, I slipped and I think I strained a muscle. Overall, I didn’t really feel firm on the ground, for some reason,” she said.
What changed from the traditional Wimbledon tournament to the Olympics? Basically just one thing: the amount of time available to prepare the courts.
The London Games started just 18 days after the Wimbledon final.
While there was a full year to get the grass ready for the Grand Slam tournament, there were just over two weeks to get it up-and-running again for the Olympics.
That left officials with no choice but to change the process routinely followed to make the rye grass perfect to play on every year and to come up with new solutions.
“We made it germinate three days before the final so it grew faster, and as soon as the (Wimbledon) tournament finished, that very night, we replanted the baseline, where there was hardly any green left,” Wimbledon’s head groundsman, Eddie Seaward, told DPA.
But the procedure was mostly cosmetic, the man who has been in charge of the grass at the All England Club since 1990 admitted.
“It was young grass, which can be more slippery and comes off faster. Those areas were brown before the tournament. We told the (London organising committee) it would be green on the first match, but then it would come off,” he noted.
The state of the courts in the first few days of the Olympic tournament did not come as a surprise to the greenkeeper. “It was to be expected. The court should be fine now,” Seaward said.
His opinion is shared by another authority when it comes to Wimbledon grass: Roger Federer.
“It looked a bit different in terms of colour. So I feel maybe it’s a bit of a different grass than the rest of it. It’s maybe a touch slippery,” said the Swiss.
“But that was the case too in the early rounds at Wimbledon weeks ago,” he added. “So I think it’s just getting used to understanding it’s actually harder to move again on the new grass than with no grass, like at the end of the tournament.”
Keywords: 2012 London Olympics