Rescue Rick the Grass Cut Man has been watching the Wimbledon Championships. In particular, I really appreciate the preparation and maintenance of the grass courts. I share some information about Wimbledon.
Since the first Championships in 1877, Wimbledon has grown from its roots as a garden-party tournament to a Grand Slam tournament with a following of millions around the world. Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam tennis event still played on grass. As a professional tournament it attracts an attendance of around 450,000 people and through press, radio and television, a following of hundreds of millions throughout the world.
The Lawn Tennis Championship Meeting — the Championships — comes under the joint management of The All England Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) and The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). The All England Lawn Tennis Club is a not-for-profit organisation. The funds generated by The Championships, less tax, are used by the LTA to develop tennis in Great Britain. The Club has 375 full members plus a number of honorary members, including past singles champions and people who have rendered distinguished service to the game. In addition there are about 100 temporary members who are elected from year to year. These members are active players who are in a position to make regular use of the Club and to play in Club matches during their period of membership.
The Club grounds consist of 19 grass courts (including the Centre Court and No. 1 Court), five red shale courts, three Continental clay courts, one American clay court and five indoor courts, (two Greenset Velvelux and three Greenset Trophy). For Wimbledon 2008, there are 18 courts in total (Centre + Nos 1-19, except for Nos 12 & 13 removed as part of preparatory works for the remodelling of southern end of the grounds). The courts are prepared in a similar manner each year to produce the highest quality playing surface for the world’s best players in the modern game to display their full range of skills. That means the courts must have even and consistent bounce, as well as the ability to withstand prolonged wear and tear for a minimum of 13 days. The courts are sown with 100% Perennial Ryegrass (since 2001) to improve durability and strengthen the sward so that it can better withstand the increasing wear of the modern game. Independent expert research from The Sports Turf Research Institute in Yorkshire, UK, proved that changing the grass seed mix to 100% Perennial Ryegrass (previously 70% Rye/30% Creeping Red Fescue) would be the best way forward to combat wear and enhance court presentation and performance without affecting the perceived speed of the court. The grass plant itself has to survive in this dry soil. Expert research has again shown that a cut height of 8mm is the optimum for present day play and survival. The height of cut has been at 8mm for the past 13 years. The amount a ball bounces is largely determined by the soil, not the grass. The soil must be hard and dry to allow 13 days of play without damage to the court sub-surface. To achieve the required surface of even consistency and hardness, the courts are rolled and covered to keep them dry and firm. Regular measurements are taken to monitor the surface. If the court is too soft, when the players run, jump and slide, the pimples on their shoes will damage the surface and increase the chance of an irregular bounce. Unlike other surfaces grass is a living plant in an outdoor environment when weather varies throughout the year. Weather conditions in the run up to The Championships will have some effect on the way the courts ultimately play. The atmosphere can also have an effect on the ball which will seem heavier and slower on a cold damp day and conversely lighter and faster on a warm dry day. Paint is not used to mark the lines on the court. A transfer wheel marker is used to apply a white compound (500 gallons used yearly) containing china clay to make it durable. All the lines are 50mm wide, except the baselines, which are 100mm. There are 160 Court Coverers who are trained two weeks prior to The Championships. It is gradual training, which then builds up on the speed. Safety is paramount, but speed essential – approximate timings 22-28 seconds. (Source: The Official Web Site of Wimbledon 2008)
Rescue Rick the Grass Cut Man would like to be invited to Wimbledon as the Official Yard Safety Super Hero! Think before you cut. It hurts! Be yard safe!
Richard T. Mudrinich
Rescue Rick the Grass Cut Man