Wimbledon-style grass courts could be coming to UK parks and to sports facilities around the world, experts have said.
Head of Courts and Horticulture at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club (AELTC), Neil Stubley, said that officials are trialling the stitching of artificial fibres with real grass to re-create the surface in different climates.
The AELTC hosts Wimbledon, which is known for its green grass courts, setting it apart from the other three tennis grand slams. Clay courts are famously used at the French Open, while players prowl artificial hard courts in the US and Australia.
Speaking at the Championships, Mr Stubley told reporters that the SW19 courts are made of 100% Perennial Ryegrass blades cut at 8mm high, but artificial solutions are needed for grass courts to be viable out of season and in varied climates.
He said: “We want to champion global grass tennis, not just for the championships but hopefully you can have tournaments in any country in the world.”
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 weeksNeil Stubley
Mr Stubley said that by cross-stitching artificial fibres with grass it is hoped to replicate “the same characteristics of a court at Wimbledon”, and this is being trialled around the UK and in Australia.
He added that artificial stitching could “potentially” herald a culture shift for the accessibility of grass sports around the world.
“All sports are looking at it,” he said.
“Cricket is looking at the stitch system as well and actually getting a longer cricket 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.
“One of the biggest challenges always is that the season is so short that if you get a wet summer you almost write that season off.
“Whereas if we’ve got a slightly more free-draining soil, even if we get a wet summer, if we can turn around from when it stops raining to getting that court back into play then it could end up being in local authority parks, encouraging more people to get into grass courts tennis.”