Monday, June 23, 2008

Wimbledon - It's About the Grass

Very interesting article in Time magazine. I hadn't realised that they'd changed the grass at Wimbledon:

In 2001, Goran Ivanisevic beat Pat Rafter in a Wimbledon final that featured 38 service aces; both players favored the fast-court tactic of heading to the net to volley. A year later, however, Australian baseline specialist Lleyton Hewitt defeated Argentinian David Nalbandian in a match that featured only seven aces and not a single such serve-and-volley point.

.......In 2001, Wimbledon tore out all its courts and planted a new variety of groundcover. The new grass was 100% perennial rye; the old courts had been a mix of 70% rye and 30% creeping red fescue. The new lawn was more durable, and allowed Wimbledon's groundsmen to keep the soil underneath drier and firmer. A firmer surface causes the ball to bounce higher. A high bounce is anathema to the serve-and-volley player, who relies on approach shots skidding low through the court. What's more, rye, unlike fescue, grows in tufts that stand straight up; these tufts slow a tennis ball down as it lands.

Ivanisevic and Rafter were able to blast their way through the new grass because an exceptionally rainy two weeks had kept the courts soft. But the ground eventually dried, and baseliners have excelled since; in men's tennis, Roger Federer, who serves and volleys only around 10% of the time, has reigned supreme

Why did they do it?

"We needed a grass that could hold up for two weeks and not splinter into patches, which is what causes bad bounces," says Seaward. "That was our goal." Any change in the pattern of play, he insists, "was just a natural byproduct of being able to keep the soil firmer."

But it makes the likelihood of a McEnroe type ever winning again unlikely. Unless they change the grass again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, there are different types of turf now?

I can accept hybrid embryos, but this time science has gone too far.