It is day two of the Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, with finals scheduled for the July 4th weekend. Head Groundsman, Eddie Seaward, has 28 ground staff during the tournament, 15 of them permanent and the rest from all over the world. For example, in 1999, an OSU turfgrass major, Matt Weber, interned there.
The grass tennis courts are built on a clay loam rootzone, which is more prone to compaction than a sand based rootzone typical in athletic field construction. Clay loam is used because sports such as tennis and cricket need a firm playing surface that provides uniform ball bounce.
The grass on the courts has historically been a blend of perennial ryegrass and slender creeping red fescue (for example 70:30 by wt.). However, research conducted by the STRI has suggested that the choice of perennial ryegrass cultivars alone had the overriding effect on performance. Consequently, Wimbledon is moving towards using 100% perennial ryegrass. Cultivars are Aberelf and Aberimp. STRI also suggest that important characteristics to keep in mind when choosing perennial ryegrass varieties for tennis are (1)tolerance of close mowing and (2)shoot density. Furthermore, perennial ryegrass performed best when sown as a monoculture or monostand (not as a blend of several cultivars), although it does require intensive and very careful management. The courts are mowed daily at a mowing height of 8 mm (0.31 inch).
One of the biggest concerns during the tournament is rain. The courts need to be kept dry so that they are not slippery and dangerous to players. There is a system in place so that once the decision to cover is made, Centre and No 1. Court can be covered with rain tarps in 30 seconds, while outside courts are covered in under one minute. On Centre Court, the covers can be inflated with air blowers, so that mowing equipment can be used underneath.
Each morning, measurements are taken to assess traffic damage, soil moisture levels, soil hardness, and ball rebound. At the end of the days play, the courts are inspected for wear damage. As a point of interest, court number 11 was installed as modular turf in 2002, similar to the system at Michigan State University. So far, Eddie is happy with the court's performance. Authors: Pam Sherratt
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