The activity around the Grounds during the month of May at the All England Club ramps up several notches, as the furniture is assembled around the courts, and the numbers of people on site go up and up and up. With just a month to go until The Championships, May is about cramming in as much as possible, so that the finishing touches can be made in June.
Contrary to popular belief, The Championships is not the first time that the grass gets played on. The majority of the courts, bar Centre and No.1, are open to the Members ahead of The Championships, with the first day of play usually taking place in mid May, which is an added task for Head Groundsman Eddie Seaward and his team.
While the sward has been mowed regularly, reducing by a mm each week to get it down to its playing height of 8mm, the next step is adding the lines. This is not, as you might think, a case of a few dudes wandering around with pots of paint. In fact, marking out the court is a practised art that requires patience and skill. And a bit of maths.
Here’s a basic guide to marking out the court, the Wimbledon way:
- Start with your two post sockets. The distance between them is 42 feet. Measure between them and mark the middle – that is the centre of the court.
- Measuring from the centre in each direction, mark out the outer box of the court with string (the Wimbledon groundsmen use a special orange one). The width is 36 foot, so insert two pegs, A and B, 18 foot either side of the centre mark. Measure 53’1” from A along the diagonal, and 39’ as the length, pulling both tapes taught – these will meet at C, the corner of the court. Reverse to find point D. The length between C and D should be 36 foot. You now have one half of the box. Repeat on the other side. The groundsmen always double and triple check.
- You can now paint the lines of the box. But, and here’s another thing you might not have known, it’s not actually paint! The groundsmen use a transfer wheel marker (or roller) to apply a white compound that contains titanium dioxide to make it durable. All the lines are 50mm wide, except the baseline, which is 100m. As you can imagine, they get through a lot of this stuff – about 500 gallons each year!
- Depending on personal preference, the groundsmen use the string as a guide, walking along with the wheel marker slowly and carefully either to the left or right of the string. Each line is rolled just once, they don’t go over and over.
- Then it’s time to measure and mark the singles tramlines – 13’6” from the centre.
- Then measure and mark the service lines.
- Then measure and mark the centre line (18’ from the centre), and the ‘toe’ – the funny jutty out bit where you serve from.
- And that’s it! Phew.
At this time of year, the courts are usually re-marked every two to three days, depending on the weather. But during The Championships, they are re-marked every day. In fact, the whole process is repeated 41 times for each court.
So with exactly a month to go until The Championships, the various groundsmen are allocated their specific jobs during the tournament, which courts they will be responsible for mowing and marking, and that’s all they will be doing between now and July.
It’s just around the corner!