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Why is tennis no longer played on grass?

The Australian Open, the first major tournament of the tennis season, is underway and the renewed Roger Federer seeks to defend his title against Rafael Nadal, currently ranked #1 at the ATP listing. This tournament is played on a hard floored court. However, it wasn't until 1988 that turf was taken out. In fact, three out of four tournaments were played on grass, although nowadays there's only one court that has maintained said tradition.

One of the problems with having a grass court it’s that it requires a significant amount of maintenance. Over at Wimbledon, the height of the pasture must not exceed 8 millimeters, thus creating a constant need to mow the lawn on a daily basis.   

It also must be taken into consideration that the grass itself may become worn out due to the constant strain as a consequence of the players movements and weather patterns. This forces the groundskeepers to care of the verdure constantly.

For these reasons, only 8 championships will be played on turf this 2018, 2 in Germany, 1 in the Netherlands, 3 in United Kingdom, 1 in Turkey, and another one in the United States.  

What differentiates turf from other surfaces?

Many great players have never won a Wimbledon title despite winning at the Australian Open, Roland Garros, and the US Open. Tennis players such as Ken Rosewall, Guillermo Vilas, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Monica Seles, Hana Mandlíkova, and Justine Henin had a particular playing style that didn’t mesh well will grass courts.   

Unlike the hard floored courts, the grass is a fastester surface because the ball does not bounce, but rather it slips when making contact with the lawn. This forces the players to bend down more and to play closer to the net with the objective that the ball bounces as little as possible.  

How did the other Grand Slams lose their grass courts?

The Australian Open, the newest of the well known tournaments, had a grass court since its beginnings. When its location was changed, its surface was not kept due to the fact it was too expensive and difficult to maintain in the summer.   

The US Open, which opened its doors in 1881, had as its first venue at the Newport Casino in Rhode Island, where the courts were made of grass.  Since 1975, the surface changed from lawn to clay.

Only in 1978, barely ten years after the beginning of the "open era" and the integration of women and doubles into the competitions, the US Open moved to its current home: the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, in Flushing Meadows. It was during this transition that it was decided that cement was going to be the material used for the court.

 

LatinAmerican Post | Iván Parada Hernández

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

 

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