Wimbledon 2018: keeping the grass pristine in the summer sun

Every year the groundskeepers of Wimbledon come under huge scrutiny from the millions of onlookers as the world’s elite tennis players participate in one of the best known annual sporting competitions.

In preparation for the tournament, players from every corner of the universe train vigorously with dreams of being crowned a Wimbledon Champ. Whilst most of us get geared up to enjoy the fortnight of aces, backspins and forehands with some strawberries and cream, much more goes on behind the scenes than we realise.

Wimbledon, of course, is best known for its grass courts, all 38 of them! A team of 35 dedicated workers, led by Head Groundskeeper, Grant Cantin, spend 50 weeks of the year preparing the 18 championship courts and 20 practice courts for the fortnight-long tournament. The team's task is to ensure each court is identical to the next in layout and in perfect playing condition.

Each court is sown with 100% ryegrass, the same as PERFORM: Sports, meaning the surface is fast to establish, hardwearing and will recover quickly. The grass is mowed to the precise height of 8mm and it really has to be precise. As we’ve seen this year with Rafael Nadal, the two-time singles champion, questioning the height of the grass as he believed it to be longer than usual stating “I don’t know if it is because there is unbelievable weather and they are trying to protect the grass”.

As every groundskeeper knows preparation is key but the weather can still cause havoc. Over the past three years the groundskeeping team have really showed their worth at Wimbledon, battling 2016’s huge floods and the extreme heat of 2017 which has returned again this year. The ultimate battle for the team is keeping the grass alive and the surface playable.

Grant Cantin drafts in the specialised scientific skills of the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) to guide his team on the exact requirements of each court during the tournament. The STRI carry out particular tests every single morning of the tournament on every single court. Testing include grass counts, chlorophyll tests, bounce tests, pace tests and moisture checks. The results are received by the groundskeeping team in the afternoon and the required treatments are carried out after play and possibly into the early hours of the morning, to ensure all 38 courts is playable.

Other interesting things to note about Wimbledon we’ve found during our research

  • Each court gets the special same care and attention - Centre Court is no exception.
  • There are approximately 250 ball boys and girls.
  • Around 166,055 portions of Strawberries & Cream were served during 2-17 tournament.
  • Pigeon control is carried out by Rufus, a Harris Hawk who visits the Club every morning at 9:00am during the tournament to provide a deterrent by making aware of a predator in the grounds.

Learn more about The Perfect Grass Pitch here

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