Wimbledon is testing the use of plastic grass in an attempt to bring lawn tennis to the world, an expert has said.
Neil Stubley, Wimbledon’s head of courts and horticulture, said officials were piloting the weaving in of artificial fibres with real grass to be able to recreate the surface in different climates.
Hybrid grass has been used in professional football pitches for years but it is the first time it is being tested out by Wimbledon, with trials taking place at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club’s Raynes Park grounds two miles away.
Stubley said artificial solutions were needed for Wimbledon-style grass courts to be viable out of season and in varied climates. Hard courts are used in the US and Australia, and clay at the French Open.
He said the club was harnessing modern technology for “the betterment of grass court tennis globally”. It was hoped that trials would be carried out in Australia, he said.
“We’ve been researching for three or four years but at the moment it’s going well. We’ve got some trial courts now and we’re just getting players and members to play on it and feed back,” Stubley said.“We, as in the All England Club, want to champion global grass tennis not just for the championships but hopefully you can have potentially tournaments in any country in the world – whether it’s a warm season or cool season grass,” he said.
“We’re doing a lot of research in southern hemisphere grasses … so we’ll naturally end up with a product where we can have the right heat zones and the right grasses on top to give us the same characteristics as a court at Wimbledon.”
Stubley, who has worked at Wimbledon for nearly three decades, said other sports, including cricket, were looking at cross-stitching synthetic grass with real grass to get a longer season.
“Historically in the UK, a grass-court season runs from May through to September, so one of the things we’re looking at is if we could have a more free-draining soil, could we extend a grass court season by four to six weeks and make it more appealing for the general public to play grass courts tennis,” he said.
He did not rule out using grass-stitching on Wimbledon’s courts but added: “I’m not so sure at the moment what benefit it would bring because there’s such intense play in such a short period of time, I’m not so sure that any grass will ever kind of get to the end of the championships and look like it has not been played on.”