Wimbledon officials make 145-year change after Serena Williams drama

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·Sports Editor
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Serena Williams, pictured here retiring hurt at Wimbledon in 2021 after slipping on the grass.
Serena Williams retired hurt at Wimbledon in 2021 after slipping on the grass. Image: Getty

In what is believed to be a first in the 145-year history of Wimbledon, officials at the All England Club will allow players to practice on the main courts in an attempt to avoid the nasty scenes that plagued the grass-court grand slam last year.

Controversy erupted at Wimbledon in 2021 when the opening rounds saw a number of players fall and injure themselves on the slippery surface.

HUGE: Russian player avoids Wimbledon ban after changing nationality

'SHAME ON YOU': Tennis stars revolt against Wimbledon in protest

Serena Williams was the highest-profile victim after she was forced to retire hurt in the opening round.

Adrian Mannarino also retired hurt against Roger Federer, while Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios were among other players to take scary tumbles.

Addressing the furore at the time, Wimbledon officials said the wettest two opening days of Wimbledon "in almost a decade" led to "additional moisture" on the grass on Centre Court because the retractable roof had been closed for long periods.

In an attempt to avoid the same ugly scenes at this year's tournament, officials will reportedly let players practice on Centre Court and Court 1 so they can acclimatise to the conditions and 'break in' the surface.

Players will be granted access to the show courts in the lead-up to the tournament so the grass will be more worn and not as wet.

A tournament representative revealed on Sunday there would be “limited practice” as part of an “enhanced playing in” of the two main courts.

It is believed to be the first time in Wimbledon's 145-year history that such a move has been made.

The three other grand slams all allow players to practice on the main courts before the tournament gets underway, but Wimbledon has always attempted to protect the surface to ensure it doesn't get too worn out by the second week.

Adrian Mannarino, pictured here after falling on the Wimbledon grass while playing Roger Federer.
Adrian Mannarino retired hurt after falling on the Wimbledon grass while playing Roger Federer. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Serena Williams returns after devastating withdrawal

Williams was forced to retire hurt in tears after playing just six games in her opening round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich last year.

The 23-time grand slam champion hasn't played in the 12 months that have followed the heartbreaking scenes, but will make her return at Wimbledon after accepting a wildcard.

In shocking scenes, Mannarino suffered the same fate as Williams in the very next match on Centre Court.

"This is obviously terrible that it's back-to-back matches and it hits Serena as well," Federer said at the time.

"Oh, my God, I can't believe it.

"I do feel it feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof...You do have to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down."

Andy Murray called the conditions “extremely” slippery at the time, saying it was “not easy to move out there”.

While eventual champion Djokovic added: “I don’t remember falling this many times on the court.”

A young ball kid was also taken off the court in a stretcher after slipping and falling later in the tournament.

Tennis fans were left fuming at the time, with some describing the ugly scenes as a 'disgrace'.

The move to allow players to practice on the main courts comes amid more controversy surrounding Wimbledon.

Russian and Belarusian players are banned from the tournament due to Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, with the ATP and WTA stripping Wimbledon of rankings points in retaliation to the shock decision.

with agencies

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting