Maintaining the lawns on England (and the world's) most famous tennis venue is slightly different to maintaining your lawn at home. There is a tremendous amount of pressure and expectation that comes with the job, as the players, officials and spectators will settle for nothing less than perfection. As Wimbledon is currently starting at this time of the year we though we would fill you in on a some of the details.
The First Lawn Tennis Association and Beyond
Lawn tennis originated back in the 19th century in Leamington Spa when Thomas Henry Gem and Juan Bautista Augurio Perera started the worlds very first lawn tennis association. It was Gem and Perera who created a new set of rules for a racket sport. The rules were inspired by the traditional game of rackets and the Spanish ball game called pelota, and it was originally played on a croquet lawn.
The credit for the invention of tennis was actually to Major Walter Clopton Wingfield, as four years the lawn tennis association was founded in Leamington he introduced a variation of lawn tennis called Sphairistike. Sphairistike consisted of the same rules as lawn tennis but it was played on an hour glass shaped court. It was Major Wingfield that widely promoted the game by selling instructions to play the game accompanied by sets of equipment.
There is an astronomical amount of work that goes into the preparation and care of the lawns at Wimbledon.
From the moment that the tournament finishes the work begins for the next year, being completely stripped ready to be re-sown. When the grass is stripped back using the best machinery in the business, the ground is then thoroughly weeded to limit the chance of any regrowth. Once this is done the lawn undergoes a rigorous aeration process including tilling the soil. There is a dedicated team led by Neil Stubley that gets this process done in a relatively short space of time to get a fast turnaround so the courts are ready to play again as soon as possible.
Once the soil is in the appropriate condition they grounds team moving on to lawn seed planting. When it comes to grass seed, Wimbledon tennis lawns have their very own produced to ensure the optimum growth. The seed is a mix of perennial rye grass which is used in combination with a controlled release fertiliser to speed up the development of the grass. The final step in the planting process is surrounding the edges of the court/ turf area with a herbicide to prevent the outbreak of Poa Annua. This is a meadow grass that can spread quickly and have a very negative effect on the perfect lawns. After the planting process is complete the soil is covered and watered by large sheets so it can grow uninterrupted in a protected environment.
The courts are hand weeded, rolled and mowed every day. The lawn grass at Wimbledon is mowed to 8mm exactly as this is the optimum length for the game. The courts are watered and monitored around the clock to make sure the grass is always as healthy as possible.
Whilst the lawns at Wimbledon are pretty much perfect, they can be and are being improved every year. You might wonder how this is possible, and the answer is constant controlled testing of different variations of grass. There are thousands of different combinations and conditions for growth that have been tested and even more left to test. This video explains the process at the lawn testing facility for many major sporting venues which is based in Yorkshire.