Interspersed with several grass court tournaments and a lot of play for members, August sees the continued renovation of the grass courts at the All England Club. Head Groundsman designate Neil Stubley updates us on what’s been going on around the grounds…
Grass court seminar
“We had about 22 people here over two days to discuss all the ins and outs of keeping grass courts. One of the guys was from Boston, he runs a tennis club there that the US team are going to use as their base camp for pre-Olympics, so he’s been sent to have a look at what we do here. We get together with grass experts, soil experts, Scott’s fertisiler company to discuss good or bad fertiliser regimes, what seeds are best, what soils are best for tennis. We do demonstrations, how we renovate the courts. Queen’s Club come in and practically demonstrate their spring preparations, it’s not all about what we do here.
I’ve always preached that this is what we do here at Wimbledon, it’s not the right way or the wrong way, but it’s how we do it and it’s how it works for us. Everyone has their own site, so there is no should and shouldn’t be doing. For example, Centre Court and Court 12 have completely different dynamics, which will be different to the tennis club down the road. At the end of the day it’s growing grass, and you can either make it very, very complicated, or very, very easy. And we make it very easy. If you are a good groundsman, you know when your grass needs something.”
The renovation process
“Centre, No.1, No.2, No.3 Court and Court 12 have all been renovated, which means we’ve shaved all the grass off and re-planted it. Hopefully by mid-August, all bar three of the southern courts will be done. They’re being kept for the Antiques Roadshow. Next will be the Northern courts, we’ll work on them until the Antiques Roadshow, and then we’ll do the practice courts. It’s a bit of a balancing act, normally you’d want all the Championships courts done by the end of August.
We shave them, let the grass grow and thicken up, and then it’s time to top dress with five to six tonnes of soil them to correct the nutrients levels. You can do that 5-6 weeks after it’s been renovated, and it takes 3-4 weeks.
So No.1 Court for example will be top-dressed by the end of this week. Then they’re ‘put to bed’ and we just cut them and manage them over the winter.”
Closing the grass courts
“August is also when we start to close the grass courts. From now on the agreement with the members is that we take out courts as and when we are ready to take them out. There is a tournament on the 17th which is the closing of the grass courts for the members at Aorangi. But we only close them a little bit at a time so the members can play for two weeks after that, effectively.
The Road to Wimbledon tournament is taking place at the moment, which requires 18 courts. We’ve also given them the use of some of the Championships courts as well, subject to what members need.
We’ve got a trade show coming up in September, so that’ll be the subject of next month’s blog!”