Tuesday 22 August 2017

Novak Djokovic fumes over the state of Centre Court grass and tournament scheduling after win

Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts against France's Adrian Mannarino during their men's singles fourth round match on the eighth day of the 2017 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon
Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts against France's Adrian Mannarino during their men's singles fourth round match on the eighth day of the 2017 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon

John Skilbeck

Wimbledon felt the wrath of a worked-up Novak Djokovic as the Serbian accused the tournament of bungling their scheduling and allowing the grass on Centre Court to fall into a shabby state.

Djokovic set up a quarter-final against Tomas Berdych with a 6-2 7-6 (7/5) 6-4 victory against French left-hander Adrian Mannarino. But he wore an irritated look as he joined the last-eight line-up a day later than planned.

Gilles Muller's epic Court One win over Rafael Nadal, which finished in fading light at 8.32pm on Monday, meant there was no time for Djokovic and Mannarino to begin there before nightfall, and a move to Centre Court was ruled out by tournament chiefs on grounds that Djokovic felt spurious.

Djokovic was far from happy at being made to wait around until late evening without clarity about where, when or even whether the contest would begin. And once it did start at midday on Tuesday, under the Centre Court roof as rain fell outside, Djokovic was soon riled by the state of the grass.

grass.jpg
Novak Djokovic picks at the grass near the baseline of centre court during his match against Adrian Mannarino on day eight of the Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon.

The three-time former champion was agitated about the churned-up patches around the baseline, pointing out a hole on the baseline to umpire Carlos Bernardes.

"The chair umpire in the end of the match asked me about the hole, because midway through the match I mentioned there is a hole," Djokovic said. "He wanted me to show him, so I showed him. His reaction wasn't that great.

"Today I must admit under the roof it was a bit more slippery in the back of the court especially. Whether it's a safety issue? I don't think it is as much as it is a hindrance to the play. There is an uneven surface around it, no grass area basically around the baseline. It's quite uneven."

But Djokovic saved his sharpest criticism for tournament officials at the All England Club, believing they blundered by failing to move the match to Centre on Monday night, and claiming their communication with the players was inadequate.

He said: "We spoke with the referee, supervisors, trying to understand the thought process that they are having. I just think it was a wrong decision not to play us last night, because we could have played. I think the last match on the Centre Court was done before 7pm. Having in mind that Centre Court has the roof and lights, we could have played till 11."

He said "security reasons" were cited by the referee's office for the decision not to move the match to a late-evening slot.

But that did not satisfy Djokovic, who said: "We were kept for two and a half hours in the dark, in a way, without knowing what we are going to do.

"The referee's office was completely indecisive."

Bearing in mind the marathon Muller-Nadal match, Djokovic contended that Wimbledon needs to consider fifth-set tie-breaks, which the US Open has had in place since 1970.

"Because Isner and Mahut made a history with an 11-hour match once, is that a reason why we're keeping it?" he said

"Yeah, it is great drama. It is for a spectator. But for a player to play a five, six-hour match, then come back the next day or within two days and perform, it's not really what your body's looking for, to be honest.

"If you are already getting to six-all in a fifth set, you might as well just decide it in a tie-break."

At one point early in the second set against Mannarino, Djokovic slung a backhand over the baseline before picking a fresh ball from his pocket and smashing it to the turf with his racket. That was the cue for catcalls from the crowd.

It can hardly have made pleasant viewing for coaches Andre Agassi and Mario Ancic either, but if anything it focused Djokovic's mind.

Despite being pestered by an ongoing shoulder issue, Djokovic moved through to a Wednesday clash with Berdych, a step closer to a possible semi-final against Roger Federer on Friday.

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