Wimbledon: The Green, Green Grass of London

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Mary Chastain

LONDON—Wimbledon, the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament, wins applause for many things, such as the mouthwatering strawberries and cream. But nothing, save the play, comes close to the grass at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

Breitbart News sat down with head groundsman Neil Stubly this week. The gentleman is always eager to speak about the grounds as he should be. Everything is immaculate. The courts are pristine and crisp while the flowers fill the air with their fresh aroma. There are other grass tournaments, but there is something about the grass at Wimbledon that sets it apart.

“It’s our attention to detail,” Stubly explains. “We take that extra step to keep the grass fresh.”

This includes taking scissors around to cut and trim the grass to ensure a completely level lawn. The height of 8mm is perfect for play. Every single court, championship and practice, receives the same treatment. This way the players experience consistency throughout the tournament.

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“These courts are a living surface,” he described. “Changing characteristics affect the ball movement. The ball moves slower on a wet day, but moves fast on a dry and hot day.”

The courts consist of 100% perennial ryegrass. This type of grass, ideal for cool climates, tolerates wet soils, which is perfect for London.

“We test every court for moisture and take hardiness readings every morning,” said Stubly. “In the evenings we water the courts.”

But London appears set to experience a heatwave during this first week of Wimbledon. Surprisingly, the forecast does not faze Stubly or his crew.

“Staying dry is more important,” he stressed. “This is also London so it will not last. We knew it was coming due to the weather forecasts and prepared for it. We know the grass will need more moisture. This will make the rest day more important this year.”

Wimbledon is the only major that takes off the middle Sunday. The rest day is literally just that. A day of rest for the courts. It allows the grounds crew to maintain and repair any major damage to the courts. But after this heatwave the grounds crew will use the rest day to add more moisture to the lawn.

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Stubly said the only reason a court is rebuilt is if the AELTC needs to construct something around or underneath it. Last year, Courts 14 and 15 stayed out of commission because AELTC built a brand new media restaurant under the courts. Wimbledon’s Facebook page posted pictures of the intense process along with an album of court preparations.

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After Wimbledon, the grounds crew tears up and rolls up the courts. They construct and seed the courts in April, a few months before the tournament starts. The grounds crew draws the lines in May. They take out measuring tapes to determine the precise dimensions. During the tournament, they redraw lines every day.

Roger Federer, who reigns on grass and could win his record eighth Wimbledon, told reporters on Tuesday the grass feels as good as it does every year and described how it changes over the course of the tournament:

Q. How are you finding the grass this year? Is it any different from last year the way it’s playing based on your experience so far?

ROGER FEDERER: It felt the same in practice, you know, throughout the whole week. Maybe for the start of a tournament, the courts feel rather on the harder side, obviously because of the weather. So there might be a little bit more bounce. It might play a little bit faster maybe, in my opinion. But that’s just an assumption. I’m not sure.

Q. Do you find that it varies from year to year in general?

ROGER FEDERER: No. It changes as the tournament progresses, you know. It’s easier to move once you enter, I’d say, third round. Then especially the second week, just because of the used bit in the back, you have more grip, whereas in the beginning of the tournament, you know, it’s more softer, it’s more slippery where the green patches are.

I mean, almost everywhere you have to be more careful the way you move, whereas in the second week you don’t really feel that way.

After Saturday, the mercury falls and it looks like normal summer weather returns to London. No matter what, though, Wimbledon will still own the most beautiful lawns in town.