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New grass please? Not on our courts

Mark Hodgkinson
June 23, 2014
Wimbledon have made no changes to the preparation of the courts for the 2014 Championships © PA Photos
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There has been no panic inside the groundsman's hut at the All England Club, no fretting at the controls of the mower.

You'll doubtless recall the Great Slippery Turf Controversy of last summer, when a number of players fell on the grass and an on-court microphone picked up Maria Sharapova calling the lawns "dangerous".

In response, Wimbledon have made no changes to the preparation of the courts for this year - an approach that was informed by the data.

"What we have to remember is that we are the only grand slam that is played on a natural living surface. There will always be a small chance of slipping on the surface, because it's grass," head groundsman Neil Stubley said.

"But there hasn't been a knee-jerk reaction. We haven't made any changes to the courts. We took the opportunity to review what we do and to make sure that we are producing the best possible courts that we can. We still believe we are. Our court maintenance during the build-up to this summer's Championships was exactly the same as what we did last year."

There were all sorts of theories last summer, including one that there was too much sugar in the grass. Stubley, though, said that testing by an independent company showed that the courts have remained unchanged for years.

"When we had the players slipping last year, and with some of the players having the perception that the courts were greasier than in previous years, we then went back and looked at the data an independent company had collected over the years," he said.

"And the company said to us: 'Your courts have stayed exactly the same over the last five years.' That meant we could disprove the theory [that they were more slippery]."

Federer trumped by boyhood hero

One benefit of hiring a super-coach is that it can reduce the pressure to sign autographs and pose for photographs after practice.

I caught a Roger Federer training session at the weekend, and I probably wasn't alone in wanting to see the former champion Stefan Edberg back on the grass of the All England Club.

As Federer left the outside court and walked back to the locker room, it seemed as though there were almost as many requests for the Swede as there were for the Swiss.

Dimitrov's rapid rise to fame

How better to learn about dealing with tennis fame than being in a relationship with Sharapova?

Grigor Dimitrov, who won this year's warm-up tournament at Queen's Club, said he has come to "embrace" being approached by fans.

"When I'm in London, I stay in Wimbledon Village, and I'm recognised by the fans as I walk around, but I don't mind," the Bulgarian said.

"I'm surrounded by that, so you've got to embrace it. I'm not going to turn my back on fans. I also think that, from an ethical point of view, you have to remember that you're a normal person too, you just happen to play good tennis."

Grigor Dimitrov beat Feliciano Lopez to win at Queen's © Getty Images
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Mark Hodgkinson is the author of Lendl: The Man Who Made Murray. He will be writing daily for ESPN throughout Wimbledon

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