Rafael Nadal and Matteo Berrettini make history by practicing on Centre Court ahead of Wimbledon for the first time – after players complained last year’s slippery surface caused injuries and forced Serena Williams to retire in the first round
- Rafael Nadal and Matteo Berrettini practiced on Centre Court for 45 minutes
- It is the first time players have been allowed to do so the before Wimbledon
- The idea is to slightly break in the surface to minimise slipping in early rounds
- Serena Williams and Adrian Mannarino were forced to retire after falling last year
Rafael Nadal and Matteo Berrettini made history this lunchtime by being allowed a 45-minute practice on the Centre Court, the first time this has ever happened on a Thursday before the tournament.
The idea is to slightly break in the surface and try to minimise the slipping and sliding often seen in the early rounds.
The decision comes after incidents in recent years which have seen players struggle to keep their footing on the slick virgin surface.
Rafael Nadal and Matteo Berrettini made history in 45-minute practice on the Centre Court
It was the first time player have been allowed to practice on the court before Wimbledon
The grass courts at SW19 are luscious and green over the opening days of play before eventually being worn down and can therefore prove more challenging during the early rounds.
Players appeared to struggle on the surface particularly last year with star Serena Williams falling victim to Centre Court.
The seven-time champion was forced to retire after she lost her footing twice during her match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the first round on the main show court last year.
Serena Williams fell victim to the slippery surface on Centre Court in the first round last year
The seven-time champion was forced to retire after she lost her footing twice on Centre Court
Williams was the second player in as many matches to retire injured following a tumble on the court.
Adrian Mannarino had fallen in the previous match while leading Roger Federer after also slipping on the surface.
Both players had played under the roof on Centre Court which exacerbated this issue, making the surface more slippery in the damp and humid conditions.
Williams’s retirement followed Adrian Mannarino’s knee injury in the previous match
Mannarino had fallen in the previous match while leading Roger Federer after also slipping
Andy Murray had said in a tweet that he had found Centre Court slippery during one of his early round matches.
‘Brutal for @serenawilliams but centre court is extremely slippy out there,’ he wrote. ‘Not easy to move out there.’
Meanwhile, Federer had claimed that players always suffered with the problem during the first few days of the tournament.
‘Those first two matches are always extremely difficult. But it’s always been like this,’ the eight-time Wimbledon champion said.
Andy Murray sympathised with Williams claiming it ‘wasn’t easy’ playing on Centre Court
Federer had claimed that players always suffered with the problem during the first few days
‘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. As the tournament progresses, it usually gets harder and easier to move on.’
In previous years, the only people allowed to hit on Centre Court and No 1 Court during the build-up were four female All England Club members in a friendly doubles match on the Saturday to test that everything was in order.
That has now changed to allow roughly four sessions of practice between professional players this week to help them prepare for the court surface.
Nadal (top of court) and Berrettini were the first of roughly four practice sessions to take place
High-ranking seeds and former champions have been allowed to book one of two 45-minute sessions on each court.
Nadal and Berrettini were the first at 1.30pm before Novak Djokovic was scheduled with Marin Cilic.
American teenager Coco Gauff, who finished runner-up at the French Open, is among the players to practice on No 1 Court.
Meanwhile, Emma Raducanu is set to be in the Wimbledon draw tomorrow as she continues to recover from a sidestrain injury.
Emma Raducanu is expected to be included in Friday’s draw for Wimbledon despite her injury
The US Open champion has been practising consistently since Sunday and took a planned day off today from training at the All England Club.
However, she has booked in for two sessions at SW19 tomorrow, with her representatives assuring that her Thursday absence was scheduled.
With Friday’s draw taking place at 10am it looks inevitable that she will take her allotted place in it as the No 10 seed.