Wednesday at Wimbledon was one for the history books and sadly for all the wrong reasons. Considered the most devastating day in Grand Slam history -- where the reigning king, Roger Federer and a former queen, Maria Sharapova were unceremoniously bounced -- it wasn't the rash of upsets that cemented it in the record books but rather the extraordinary amount of dangerous grass court wipeouts, medical and injury timeouts and player withdraws (7 in total). It was as if the NHL had invaded the All England Club.
The idea that matches throughout the first week would produce something similar was hardly far-fetched. So it came as no surprise when the spills, thrills and injury related withdraws continued.
Fortunately, for fans, ESPN, and the tournament itself - Thursday and Friday's brackets were more or less chalk, for the top seeds, with Djokovic, Serena, Murray and Ferrer advancing and restoring a sense of normalcy to an otherwise surreal first 3 days. Even so, it hasn't stopped many of the victors from re-iterating what players before them have been saying, "The courts are dangerous."
With the chorus of complaints growing, the All England Club defended the courts surface. "The court preparation has been to exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years, and it is well known that the grass surfaces tend to be more lush at the start of the event," stated Richard Lewis, chief executive of the club.
Ok, say that's the case, then how do you explain the inordinate number of falls and injuries that have taken place this year? Injuries so graphic that they appear - at first glance - as if they might be career-enders?
The theories are numerous and everyday a new one takes shape. From the fact that the club has a new head groundskeeper, to the necessary grass replanting due to the 2012 Summer Olympics, to the "lovely" English weather.
Regardless of the truth, a few things are now certain:
1) The damage it is causing could prove detrimental to the longevity of both the players and the game.
2) 2015 may be too late. This is when an extra week will be added in between the end of the French and the beginning of Wimbledon, so that players can better transition from clay to grass court play.
3) The All England Club needs to re-evaluate their procedures and protocols regarding the grass, in light of all that has transpired. The tournament cannot afford to have a repeat performance of what transpired throughout the first week.
4) Player safety is of the utmost importance. They are the asset and tennis organizations should be doing everything possible to protect their health and wellness. The success and growth of the sport is nothing without them.
These players are professionals. They understand that there are risks every time they take the court. They also understand that on any given day, anyone can win. So to fall victim to their opponent because of their determined play, spectacular shot-making or their own unforced errors is a part of the game. What isn't -- is to fall (literally) over and over again at the hands of the playing surface and have to retire. That is no way to go out in any tournament and especially one, as important as Wimbledon.