Wimbledon 2014: Meet the All England Lawn Tennis Club experts who prepare the perfect grass courts
With all the excitement of the Wimbledon tennis championships at the most famous courts in the world, you could be forgiven for not noticing one of the most important parts of the tournament.
The grass on the outdoor courts has been painstakingly prepared for months in advance, and if the surface is not right, it could ruin players’ chances of success.
The correct amount of water has been applied, each blade lovingly monitored and temperature controlled by staff with a degree in sports turf management.
Behind the whole precision operation is head groundsman Neil Stubley, 45, who is in charge of 41 courts and is about to take on his 20th tournament at Wimbledon.
"The job is so diverse," he said.
"We are looking after a living, breathing surface.
"No two tournaments are the same - if we spent 40 years here it would never be the same.
"We might get a really hot spring or a really wet spring, it is always different.
"You have to adapt to the circumstances."
There are 15 full time ground staff who work all year round to make sure the turf is in tip top condition.
Neil Stubley: Wimbledon's grass courts are shaved off and reseeded after the Championships are over
Such is their expertise, the team advises other clubs both in the UK and abroad in sunny climes such as Mallorca, which will host a new Women’s Tennis Association tournament in 2016.
Mr Stubley said straight after the tennis season ends, they shave the grass off and re-seed it.
"We will re-generate it and manage it through autumn, winter and spring to make sure it is healthy grass," he said.
"At the moment, the team has done all they can in terms of preparation and all that needs doing is cutting the grass every day.
"Once the tournament starts, it is like being on a ‘rollercoaster." Mr Stubley said.
He added: "Our biggest concern is the courts aren’t really firm.
"After two or three days of practicing we worry there will be damage from the rackets.
"We can’t help that.
"The other worry is the weather.
"For the two weeks we worry things will go wrong and we can’t relax until it is a success.
"It is just the nature of the beast."
Mr Stubley said the players are very humble and Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in particular were very down to earth despite their fame.
He said it was the grass courts which attracts players to Wimbledon year after year because they relish the challenge of having to adapt to the surface.
Without the expertise of Neil and his team, there would be no courts for the stars to win on.
"It’s a juggling act, but a fun one," he said.
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The Wimbledon tennis championships fortnight begins on Monday, June 23: Follow the Wimbledon and Wandsworth Guardian's alternative coverage of the event online and in the newspapers.
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