At Wimbledon, slippery Centre Court grass the story after falls, retirements

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WIMBLEDON, England — There was more slipping and sliding Wednesday at Wimbledon, and former U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu made another early Grand Slam exit when she lost to Alize Cornet in the first round, 6-2, 6-1.

Andreescu won the 2019 Open, but the Canadian is 2-5 in majors since, including three opening-round defeats.

As the third day of play began, footing on the grass continued to be an issue. Andreescu, Novak 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.”

Seven-time champion Serena Williams retired from her first-round match Tuesday with a leg injury after she slipped. Roger Federer’s opponent, Adrian Mannarino, had to call it quits after he fell and twisted his knee.

WIMBLEDON DRAWS: Men | Women

In what sounded like an attempt to dispel the notion that anything might be different about the grass this time, particularly given that it’s been two years since the tournament was held, the club’s statement said: “The preparation of the grass courts has been to exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years.”

Here is a key element in the equation: Wimbledon’s courts are removed annually and new grass is installed.

So the fact that there wasn’t a tournament in 2020 shouldn’t be affecting things.

“Even though we didn’t have The Championships, our renovation program was the same,” Neil Stubley, the club’s head of courts and horticulture, said before competition began Monday. “So we literally just ripped the courts up and sort of re-leveled, re-seeded and then just grew them back in for this year. Which we would have done exactly the same, whether we’d had The Championships or not.”

The outset of the two-week tournament is “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,” the club said in its statement, adding: “With each match that is played, the courts will continue to firm up.”

Persistent rain the first two days of play created slick conditions. The weather also caused a scheduling backlog, with 27 first-round matches pushed into Wednesday.

The retractable roof was closed when the top-ranked Djokovic was first on Centre Court for a rematch against Kevin Anderson. Djokovic won when they played in the 2018 final.

Among those advancing was Queen’s Club tournament champion Matteo Berrettini, who hit 20 aces and pulled away from Guido Pella 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0. Former U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori ousted Alexei Popyrin 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 for his 100th Grand Slam match win. No. 10 Denis Shapovalov moved into the third round when Pablo Andujar withdrew because of a rib injury.

Andreescu, who has battled injuries but was seeded fifth, committed 34 unforced errors to seven for Cornet.

“I tried to stay positive the whole match,” Andreescu said. “I tried to figure it out, how I can play her better. But honestly, she played really well.”

In other women’s play, French Open runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat Ana Bogdan 6-2, 6-2.

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At Wimbledon, slippery Centre Court grass the story after falls, retirements originally appeared on NBCSports.com