A pair of slips during feature matches on Wimbledon’s centre court had very different consequences for two tennis legends on Tuesday.
First it was Roger Federer who benefited from an injury to his first-round opponent, France’s Adrian Mannarino, who slipped and injured his knee. Federer, 39, was trailing 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 3-6, 4-2 when Mannarino had to retire.
On the same court less than an hour later, Serena Williams slipped and crumpled to the ground with a sore ankle in her opening set against Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus. Williams, 39, began the match with her right thigh taped and she returned to the locker room briefly for treatment after sliding. She tried to continue but quickly gave up and left the court in tears after 34 minutes of play, her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title in tatters.
“This is obviously terrible that it’s back-to-back matches and it hits Serena as well,” Federer, 39, said after his match. “Oh, my God, I can’t believe it.” Referring to Mannarino, Federer added: “It was just a terrible ending, one I don’t like to see. I don’t know, I just felt really down, especially with everything I went through with my knee.”
Sasnovich also offered sympathy for Williams. “I’m so sad for Serena. She is a great champion,” she said. “It happens sometimes in tennis, but all the best to her.” She added that she also found the footing difficult. “Yeah, it was very slippery, I felt, as well. When she did the [ankle], I couldn’t run because it was so slippery. But, okay, it’s the same for everyone.”
Rain has caused havoc across Wimbledon since the start of play on Monday and dozens of matches have been postponed. On Tuesday play was suspended for more than four hours on all outdoor courts. More than a dozen matches were eventually rescheduled for Wednesday, including those featuring Canadians Bianca Andreescu, Félix Auger-Aliassime and Leylah Fernandez.
Canada’s Denis Shapovalov complained about the slippery court when his match with Germany’s Philippe Kohlschreiber restarted Tuesday after the rain delay. The match had already been postponed from Monday because of the weather and when the court cover came off Tuesday afternoon at the end of the fourth set, Shapovalov immediately raised concerns about the damp surface. However, he was told by the umpire that the court was sufficiently dry.
“It was definitely slippery and humid,” Shapovalov said afterward. “But at the end of the day we had to play. It’s tough. I don’t blame anyone, it’s really tough for the tournament with this weather.”
The 10th-seeded Shapovalov managed a hard-fought 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory over Kohlschreiber, 37, who was unseeded and ranked 115th in the world. “It was definitely not a really easy first-round match,” Shapovalov said.
He’s hoping that the tough early test will help in future rounds, which could see him face Britain’s resurgent Andy Murray in the third round. “It’s a huge weight off my back. It’s always difficult going in the first round of a major,” Shapovalov said. “I was very difficult so for sure I was really happy to be able to pull through and play the way I did.”
Coco Gauff, who also won her first-round match on an outside court on Tuesday after the lengthy delay, said she was constantly sliding. “I think everybody saw me slipping and sliding out there on the court,” she said. “With Serena, I mean, it was hard for me to watch that. … I turned away. I was in the gym actually stretching. I turned away because stuff like that makes me, like, really emotional.”
Wimbledon officials have been scrambling to slot in the many postponed matches and they have already been forced to cut the first-round matches of men’s doubles to the best of three, instead of five. They’ll be hoping for a break in the weather. But so far the forecast doesn’t look promising with clouds and showers expected for the rest of the week.
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