August 9, 2022

Former Wimbledon junior champion Laura Robson has joined calls for Wimbledon to limit the use of plastic bottles.

The 28-year-old added that Wimbledon should ban single-use bottles altogether or limit players to just one, adding that fines for breaking the rules were “maybe something that has to happen”.

But the Olympic silver medalist conceded restrictions would hit Spaniard Rafael Nadal because he is “superstitious” and known for carefully lining up multiple bottles of water as part of a long-established ritual.

During an environmental roundtable at SW19 today, Robson said: “There’s all the players on the training grounds, just taking a few sips from a bottle of water and leaving it there. Should there be a fine, maybe?We joke about it, but maybe it’s something that needs to happen.

“I don’t know how you would go about implementing this, if you would have court covers that would expose people on the ground. I don’t know how you would organize it, but it would be a start.

Robson was joined by All England Lawn Tennis Club sustainability manager Hattie Park and former British rower Melissa Wilson, who said Wimbledon should follow Roland Garros’ example. Players have only used reusable bottles this year after the government banned single-use plastic in France.

“Players had to use reusable bottles and they were branded by a sponsor,” Park said. “I think the fact that this is happening in another Grand Slam tournament… potentially offers an alternative [for Wimbledon].”

But Robson said athletes would need to stick to one bottle for the plan to be effective. “I was watching a lot of games in Paris and people had multiple reusable bottles because you have your water, energy drinks, electrolytes and all kinds,” she said. “As soon as you put someone using five reusable bottles, they kind of lose their power.”

Campaigners have criticized Wimbledon and Evian, which sponsors the competition, for providing players with single-use bottles. Hundreds of thousands of bottles are used each year at the tournament, with approximately 420,000 given out in 2019.

Maja Darlington, a plastics campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “Wimbledon is a world class event. If they can afford to pay players £50,000 just for taking part in the first round, they can afford to provide them with reusable water bottles and make sure they don’t contribute to the plastic crisis which continues to grow.

Robson said tennis has “such a long way to go” to becoming environmentally friendly, but introducing reusable cups to the court could be a “big game changer”.

“We also have superstitious players – you know, Rafael with his water bottles, and they all have to be in a certain row,” she said. “There are other players who prefer plastic bags around the racquets after rebinding. And this is slowly but surely changing the mindset.

22-time Grand Slam winner Nadal commented on his on-court routine, saying he takes “a sip from one bottle, then another. And then I put both bottles down at my feet, in front of my chair to my left, neatly arranged one behind the other, diagonally towards the court.

He’s already been the victim of a number of violations for taking too long between stitches while performing his ritual, which also includes picking out his underwear.

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Robson said there are wider issues with tennis’ environmental credentials: “We travel every week. Usually on a plane – there’s hardly any possibility of using other means of transport – and then you arrive at a big tournament like this. And you know, there’s a fleet of Land Rovers, which are beautiful, but not necessarily so environmentally friendly.

Park said the club was working with Evian on the possibility of installing water refill stations on the court, and that spectators could bring reusable bottles to SW19. The club has previously stated that Evian bottles are made from 100% recycled plastic.

On environmental targets, Park added: “There is progress we need to make, we are actively discussing with our partners how we can improve and improve.”