Paul Gitting reports on the lack of control that humans have over the natural temporality of grass growing rates. This is distinguished from the ways that different rates of growth can be experimented with technologically. This latter form of growth, identifiable in court management at a tennis tournament, is a socially framed phenomenon that is opposed from a natural timing of grass that cannot be rushed.
Wimbledon grass faces Olympic race against time and nature.
Andy Newell from the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) gives Wimbledon head groundsman Eddie Seaward and his staff expert scientific advice on that preparation and admits that any delay into a third week would be a serious problem.
“They don’t want to lose time because they are already on such a fine edge and even a day would mean you lose 5% of your preparation, and that could be crucial,” he told CNN…
“We worked on them just a couple of years ago to prove to LOCOG that we could do that within a short period of time, get the courts back in pristine condition,” Seaward told CNN.
But trial run or not, it’s still a daunting prospect with little room for error. The grass must be cut to an exact 8 millimeters for optimum performance, and Seaward and his team have to keep a wary eye on that unpredictable British weather — ground temperature and humidity levels are constantly measured.
For this reason, the expertise of scientists and agronomists is so important. STRI has been advising Wimbledon for over a decade. At its main testing center in a little corner of West Yorkshire, in northern England, its staff have recreated their own versions of Centre Court — trialing different varieties of grass to provide the best and most resilient surface.
“We can test the grasses that they may use in the future here, ” said Newell, STRI’s head of turf grass biology…
Newell believes that the soil texture underneath the grass is just as important in determining the playing characteristics, but knows that when hosting the biggest sports show on earth, aesthetics are important.
“The idea is that we get the court to look the way it’s going to look on the opening Monday of Wimbledon.”
But he warned: “It all comes back to nature, and nature can’t be rushed.”
Gitting, Paul. 2012. “Wimbledon grass faces Olympic race against time and nature.” CNN. July 5, 2012. https://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/05/sport/tennis/tennis-wimbledon-grass-olympics/index.html