Wimbledon 2016: What goes in to making the perfect court
On Sunday, the eve of the Championships, a special annual ritual takes place to mark the final flourish of the painstakingly detailed behind-the-scenes preparations. It is a triumphant finishing touch before a festive occasion to match putting the strawberry on the top of a cake or the fairy on top of a Christmas Tree - and yet it goes scarcely noticed by anyone beyond Head Groundsman Neil Stubley.
What is this sacred rite, you ask? It is this: a member of the ground staff takes a small pair of scissors and, on hands and knees, hand-trims the grass edges around the net posts on each court.
"The spectators can’t even see the net post sockets," says Stubley. "But we can, and we like everything to be absolutely perfect."
'Attention to detail’ is the mantra in the days leading up to the start of The Championships.
On the practice courts, the players are fine-tuning their grass-court game – honing their serve, their slice, their speed and agility – while around the
grounds of the All England Club, an army of eagle-eyed ground staff operate in scrape, clean, wipe, shine and polish mode.
You see people up ladders refreshing the gold paint on the letters ‘AELTC’ above the gates, hanging baskets of petunias and checking broadcast equipment supports. The pathways are full of electric buggies and mini fork-lift trucks delivering bedding plants and catering supplies.
The fastidiousness is mind-boggling. In the 51 weeks since Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova held aloft their trophies, every single painted surface of stadium masonry has been jet-pressure washed, sandpapered and re-painted. Specialist mini paint rollers have been maneuvered over the perimeter railings with glossy black emulsion, and subsequently wiped daily to remove the day’s dusting of pollen fall and fine spider webs.
In order to keep the block paving clean – and frankly, who would even have thought it dirty? - the ground staff have invented their own quirky implement known as ‘the grouting stick’.
They take a batch of brand new brooms, remove the heads and bang a nail into the tips. The flat cap of the nail is then removed and the nail scraped between the paving cracks removing any microscopic traces of crud until the nail is worn down, when it is replaced by another...and the process goes on, until the paving looks as good as new.
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