Players turn red with rage over green, green grass

  • Other Sport
  • Thursday, 24 Jun 2004

MARCELO Rios thought it was only good for grazing, Wayne Ferreira loves it but thinks it too slow while Marat Safin hates it so much, he's never going to play another Wimbledon. 

Nothing divides opinions like the green, green grass of the All England Club and it was driving mercurial Russian Safin to distraction on Tuesday as he crashed out in the first round and vowed never to return 

“I give up on Wimbledon. It's not the tournament for me,” said Safin after his 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (7-1) defeat to compatriot Dimitry Tursunov. 

“I hate this. I can't move on grass. Every time I don't know how the ball is going to bounce, it's a real nightmare for me. So after a while, I just got bored. I lost motivation and gave up.” 

Safin's complaints would get a sympathetic hearing from world number one Rios who once famously said that the Wimbledon grass was “only fit for cows.” 

“I don't take Wimbledon, like playing on grass, like really an important thing,” said former world number one Rios after a first round defeat in 1998.  

“Tennis, you see it on grass, it's not tennis. You just serve, return and go in, and that's it. Grass is not a surface to watch tennis or to play tennis. It's really boring.”  

Unlike the dead slow clay surface, grass favours the big servers and the volleyers who attack the net rather than sit, rooted to the baseline. 

For many, the transformation to the short grass court season, which is only four weeks, isn't worth the effort. 

Two years ago, Spain's Albert Costa won the French Open and then timed his honeymoon to coincide with Wimbledon. 

This year's Roland Garros winner Gaston Gaudio pulled out with a foot injury while triple Paris champion Gustavo Kuerten is another absentee because of his ongoing hip problem. 

The Brazilian has graced the All England Club courts just five times and after staying away again in 2002 was adamant in his refusal to come. 

“Everybody in Britain keeps going on about how wonderful Wimbledon is, but I simply don't have any desire to play there, and it means nothing to me,” said Kuerten.  

South Africa's Wayne Ferreira, who first played at Wimbledon in 1990, is a fan but laments what he sees as the slowing down of the famous courts. 

“The courts are a lot slower than they were in the 1990s.  

“When I first played here I served and volleyed on first and second serves because if I didn't I would have lost. 

“Now they are more like hard courts. I think if they were quicker, I might have done better.” – AFP  

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