Green, Green Grass
In many sports, the ground on which it is played is pivotal to the performance of the athletes above it. There are some simply incredible surfaces out there in the world of sport that take your breath away, the fairways at Augusta, the pitch at Wembley but nothing quite comes close to the green green grass at SW19.
Each blade on the 54 million individual plants trimmed to a neat eight millimetres in height is nothing short of art.
But why is the grass at Wimbledon so luscious?
The answer is science, but first we will look back at the history of Wimbledon's grass to see how it all began.
The green stuff at SW19 has its roots in the maritime climate of the Britain. Ancient farmers let their livestock graze on native meadows, often focusing their towns around a grazing area. Eventually, these central meadows became sites for sports and recreation.
Originally an indoor sport, the now common outdoor “lawn tennis” didn’t get into full swing until the late1800s, when the first games were played on modified croquet courts. When the first Wimbledon Championships took place in 1877, the sport now had its own designated playing area.
Early Wimbledon grass was a mix of specious which often caused a number of headaches including random clumps of dandelions and daisies appearing!
After the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI), in Bingley, England, took over development of Wimbledon grass in 1951, they approached the issues Wimbledon were having with pure science. In an article on the subject Alejandra Borunda wrote for National Geographic: "They tested pesticides to kill worms and herbicides to kill the daisies, new soil mixes to change the firmness of the ground (which affects how high the ball bounces), and fertilizers to make the grass grow faster, greener, more predictably."
Huge leaps were taken when they began to realise they could pick and choose specific grass seeds. Alejandra went on to say: "The team built a machine—essentially a fake foot, complete with tennis shoe—that would stomp and slide and smear across the grass. They’d set it up, turn it on, and come back later to see whether “Brightstar” could take the stress, or if “Rambo” held up better."
“We made most of the progress in the 1990s,” says Mark Ferguson, the head of research at STRI. “We made huge strides initially, and we’ve not quite hit the ceiling yet.” Although Mark believes now that the surface is almost close to perfect!
With so much time, effort and science dedicated to the 2 weeks of The Championships, you can imagine the grounds staff at Wimbledon wincing every time Novak jumps into a 2 meter slide or Fabio Fognini gets ready to launch his racket in frustration! Perhaps we can all see now why the All England Club dish out a cool £10,000 fine for damaging their courts!