Players have hit out over the condition of the grass at Wimbledon this year, voicing fears for their safety in what they say are dangerous conditions.
With the famous courts of the All England Lawn Tennis Club visibly drying out in this week’s high temperatures, several players have raised their concerns.
During one match this week, the French player Kristina Mladenovic and her opponent Alison Riske, 27, even tried to get play stopped because of their fears, only to be told by officials to carry on.
Fears were heightened after the American player Bethanie Mattek-Sands was seriously injured on Thursday after falling and was stretchered off Court 17 in agony, although it is not known if the surface played a part.
Speaking after her own match on Court 18, Mladenovic said: “Honestly, the feeling is that I couldn't care less if I lost the match today, I just want to be healthy. I'm just so blessed and happy that I am not injured today, because we saw worse today.”
Mladenovic, 24, said she and her opponent had asked for officials to intervene on safety grounds over the state of the court.
She said: “We just had to keep on playing. I'm not sure how the other courts are, if they're damaged as much as Court 18.
“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. There's no grass. I don't know how to describe it. It's not even clay. It's not flat.”
She added: “I feel it's totally different than the previous years. 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.”
Wimbledon on Friday closed the roof of Centre Court before the start of play in an attempt to protect the grass from the heat as temperatures reached 31 degrees for the second day in a row.
The AELTC has defended the condition of the courts, saying it carried out regular inspections of the playing surface.
But other players have weighed into the row, remarking on the poor quality of the grass.
Caroline Garcia said it seemed particularly bad for this early stage of the tournament and Swiss player Timea Bacsinszky, the world number 20, said she was “disappointed” with the quality of the grass this year, particularly on Court 18, where she played on Tuesday.
She said: “It was the second day of the tournament, and it was already ruined. Usually you see that after a week. Sorry, Wimbledon, it's not against you, but there are improvements to do on this thing.”
Seven times Wimbledon winner Roger Federer said players’ fears over the condition of courts had to be taken seriously.
“Sometimes it’s not attached any more. You know, it’s like dead grass. It changes colour. And that bit can be slippery,” he said. “It's not a good sign, and you should always take the players' opinion serious, especially when both say it.
"But to postpone a match because of slippery grass, I have never heard that. It's a tough one. I don't know what to say.”
The AELTC said its court preparation have been to “exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years”. In a statement it said: “Grass is a natural surface and it is usual for the baselines to start to be showing signs of wear and tear four days into The Championships.