XtraTime Web Desk: The most heritage venue for the tennis Grand Slams – Wimbledon are all set to see a huge revolution in its territory.
Wimbledon chiefs are considering a controversial move to install an artificial playing surface on Centre Court to allow more matches to be played.
The British media on Sunday can reveal plans are advanced for a hybrid practice court and committee members have been briefed about such surfaces.
Wimbledon prides itself on its natural grass courts but there is growing demand for more women’s games on Centre Court.
The perennial ryegrass surface often wears out under the demands of a two-week event so research is being funded into an artificial ‘weave’. Plans would be to introduce it at club level first.
Similar technology is used in rugby, where a low percentage of plastic grass is weaved with natural grass to increase longevity.
Match scheduling allows for three matches per day on Centre Court — creating an imbalance between male and female matches — but committee member Tim Henman claims that could soon change.
‘In an ideal world, you’d like to have four matches on Centre Court and Court No1,’ Henman told the Mail on Sunday. ‘What people never focus on is the fact it’s a natural surface. It’s grass. You’ve got to have that court for 13 days and if you kill it in the first five days, then you’re in trouble.
‘Wimbledon are investing a lot of money looking at the hybrid thing. When you see the football and rugby pitches now, they’re three per cent artificial. We’re certainly looking at, “What does five per cent look like on a tennis court? What does 10 per cent look like on a tennis court?”
‘If you go back a few generations, it was huge in America, Australia, India and a lot of it has died out because of the maintenance, the cost, the quality of court. If that area can evolve then it may be relevant for Wimbledon.’
Around 51 million grass plants are needed to maintain Centre Court, and the courts are only used during the annual Championships. Varying percentages of weave technology are available.
‘We’re getting close to the stage where we put down a hybrid grass court in one of the practice courts,’ said Henman, the former world No4, who was speaking during a coaching session on HSBC’s Court 20 with the charity Give it Your Max.
‘We know what 100 per cent artificial is and it’s not great but we’re looking at three, five, 10 . How will it be under foot? What will the movement be like?
‘There’s nothing better than a good grass court but there’s nothing worse than a bad grass court. People have an image of artificial surfaces that you dive around and get burns, but if it works in rugby…’