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Slip sliding away: Why are so many players hitting the deck at Wimbledon?

In what sounded like an attempt to dispel the notion that anything might be different about the grass two years since the tournament was last held, the All England Club issued a statement that said, in part: “The preparation of the grass courts has been to exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years.”

The grass is removed and replaced annually. So the fact that the 2020 edition was called off because of the pandemic shouldn’t affect things.

Kyrgios screamed in pain as he slipped on the court, but was able to resume the match.

Kyrgios screamed in pain as he slipped on the court, but was able to resume the match.Credit:Getty Images

“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-levelled, re-seeded and then just grew them back in for this year.”

Djokovic offered another possible explanation: Players are out of practice on grass. Not only was last season’s circuit on the surface wiped out, but there were only two weeks, instead of the standard three, between the end of the clay-court French Open and start of Wimbledon.

His first-round match Monday, and the matches involving Williams and Mannarino on Tuesday, were played with the main stadium’s retractable roof shut because of rain. And that — rather any sort of change to the grass itself at the oldest grand slam tournament — is what the All England Club blamed for how slick the surface was during what it said were the wettest two opening days of Wimbledon “in almost a decade.”

Keeping the roof closed for a long period leads to “additional moisture” on the grass, the club said.

Novak Djokovic during his second-round win over Kevin Anderson.

Novak Djokovic during his second-round win over Kevin Anderson.Credit:AP

“It feels a tad more slippery, maybe, under the roof. I don’t know if it’s just a gut feeling. You do have to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down,” Federer said. “I do feel it’s drier during the day. With the wind and all that stuff, it takes the (moisture) out of the grass.

“But this is obviously terrible.”

On Wednesday, though, there was no rain, so Djokovic’s match was played in an uncovered arena.

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.”

Andy Murray slips on day three at the All England club.

Andy Murray slips on day three at the All England club.Credit:Getty

Federer offered a similar assessment.

He’s rather familiar with the place, having first entered Wimbledon in 1999 and winning it eight times.

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“I feel, for a lot of players, it’s super key to get through those first two rounds, because the grass is more slippery.

“It is more soft,” he said, noting that later in the fortnight “usually it gets harder and easier to move on.”

As far as Djokovic was concerned, what mattered more than his false steps was the final score.

“Hopefully, as the tournament progresses, I’ll also fall less,” he said, “even though I don’t mind falling more if the result is winning a match.”

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