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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Wimbledon divides opinion
Wimbledon from above
Wimbledon officials argue that grass is unlike any other surface

The seeding system and the fast surface is not the only thing about Wimbledon that annoys some of the top tennis players.

It was Spaniard Manolo Santana who coined the phrase "grass is for cows" in the 1960s.

Since then, generations of players more used to playing on clay have made a point of criticising the surface, Wimbledon itself and anything else that gets on their nerves about England.

Whenever Czech Ivan Lendl, for example, turned up in England in June he repeated Santana's famous phrase, often complaining that he hated the softness under his feet.

But at least Lendl gave it his best, appearing 14 times and reaching the final twice.

The recently-retired Alberto Berasategui, by comparison, a Spaniard who reached seven in the world and the final of the French Open in 1994, never played there at all.

In 2001, then world number one Gustavo Kuerten got in on the act.

Ivan Lendl in action in 1988
Lendl hated grass but gave Wimbledon his best shot
He felt there was not enough time between the French Open and Wimbledon for him to recover from a gruelling clay-court season.

However some felt his real reason was a reaction to Wimbledon's seedings policy.

Wimbledon officials argue that grass is unlike any other surface and that to seed, for example, Kuerten above Pete Sampras, which would have happened if the ATP system was followed, would be ridiculous.

Albert Costa and Alex Corretja have all previously refused to play for that reason.

Cynics might point to their poor records at the venue, none of them having ever got beyond the second round.

But it is not just the grass that winds up some people.

Andrei Medvedev made this blunt assessment of the All England Club:

"It's a snobbish English club with their own rules and their own traditions. People treat you bad there. There is practically no motivation to play Wimbledon," he monaed.

Andre Agassi in 1989
Agassi had no time for tradition during his wild years
The club issued a conciliatory statement, hoping that Medvedev would approve of new facilities, which he later did.

In 1999, Jim Courier was not happy when he was taken to hospital in a car when suffering from cramp and exhaustion.

He said the facilities were the worst at any Grand Slam. Pity he had retired by the time the new treatment rooms were opened in 2000.

Wimbledon is the last of the major tournaments to still insist that players wear predominantly white clothing.

The rule was one of the reasons Andre Agassi stayed away between 1988 and 1990, when he had a penchant for lurid fluorescent tennis gear.

Jimmy Connors, needless to say, never had much time for the traditions of Wimbledon and steered clear of a parade of former champions in 1977.

With some people, there is bound to have been an element of sour grapes.

Sampras, unsurprisingly, has a different view.

"I wouldn't change a single thing about it," he said.


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