Wimbledon will serve up tennis on Middle Sunday thanks to ‘steamed grass’

Since 2001 the courts have been sown with 100 per cent Perennial Ryegrass to improve durability and detailed readings of the courts take place every day to monitor the hardness of the soil and regulate watering. 

The AELTC has also begun to steam the courts to kill bugs and increase the resilience of the grass.

There were still complaints by some players in 2017 that poor grass quality was creating dangerous conditions, with bare patches and “divots” appearing following a dry spell.

The AELTC said: “Across the 14 days, we will be maximising all windows to provide additional water to the courts to keep the grass plant in good condition. The steaming process that we have introduced has seen better wear tolerance in the grass plant and will be something we continue to invest in.”

Rain has forced play on the Middle Sunday four times in the history of the tournament, in 1991, 1997, 2004 and 2016. 

With Middle Sunday normally a rest day, the following day has become known as “Manic Monday”, with all of the men’s and women’s last 16 matches held on the same day.

Mr Hewitt said: “Manic Monday was popular, but it creates certain challenges and I’m not sure it really did full justice to that day’s tennis. Spreading the play over two days will do more justice to each day’s play.”

The club will be hoping that playing on Middle Sunday will also give them more flexibility over the scheduling of matches on the show courts, allowing them to avoid recurrent accusations that female players were being relegated to outside courts in favour of male players.

There was anger in 2017 when several top female players, including world number one Angelique Kerber and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko were scheduled on outside courts, with some lower ranked male players on Court No 1 and Centre Court.

It has not yet been decided whether spectators will this summer be required to wear face masks in the courts. The club said that depends in part on the results of current pilot projects allowing fans into a number of football matches and the snooker championships in Sheffield.

The Telegraph revealed on Tuesday that every player will this year be required to stay in biosecure hotel “bubbles”, rather than rent out houses in SW19 as they have done in previous years. That includes Andy Murray, who only lives a few miles from Wimbledon, in Oxshott, Surrey.

The Minimum Risk Event (MRE) requirement has been imposed by the Government and Public Health England as a condition of allowing the tournament to go ahead without forcing players to quarantine for 10 days before the start of the fortnight.

The championships are set to begin on June 28, a week after the planned lifting of most Covid restrictions on June 21.

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