Wimbledon could be ready to break from one of its proudest traditions as the oldest major tennis tournament looks to keep up with the times.
Since 1877, the All England Club has staunchly stuck to its ‘natural grass only’ mantra.
PULLING OUT: Federer withdraws from lead-up event to US Open
However, with hopes to see more games played on the top showcourts at SW19, organisers are giving serious consideration to adopting a hybrid synthetic grass.
Committee member and former Wimbledon semi-finalist Tim Henman says it could be a matter of time before Wimbledon follows in the footsteps of other professional codes, such as football.
“In an ideal world, you’d like to have four matches (per day) on Centre Court and Court number one,” Henman said.
“What people never focus on is the fact it’s a natural surface. It’s grass. You’ve got to have that court for 13 days and if you kill it in the first five days, then you’re in trouble.
“Wimbledon are investing a lot of money looking at the hybrid thing. When you see the football and rugby pitches now, they’re three per cent artificial. We’re certainly looking at.
“What does five per cent look like on a tennis court? What does 10 per cent look like on a tennis court?”
Wimbledon want four matches per day on the top showcourts, something they have been unable to commit to previously because of the strain put on the grass.
Artificial areas, such as the always troublesome baseline, would allow for more tennis – with an earlier start and later finish than possible.
There is an appetite for evening matches thanks to the roof on Centre, and the newly-installed cover on Court One adding light – allowing games to go on until 11pm.
Wimbledon has already broken with tradition in recent years with the installation of the Centre Court roof, with discussions around implementing tie-breakers for deciding sets ongoing.
However, this latest plan for hybrid grass would likely start just at club level for All England Club members.
“We’re getting close to the stage where we put down a hybrid grass court in one of the practice courts,” Henman said.
“We know what 100 per cent artificial is and it’s not great but we’re looking at three, five, 10 . How will it be under foot? What will the movement be like?
“There’s nothing better than a good grass court but there’s nothing worse than a bad grass court.
“People have an image of artificial surfaces that you dive around and get burns, but it works in rugby.
“If you go back a few generations, it was huge in America, Australia, India and a lot of it has died out because of the maintenance, the cost, the quality of court.
“If that area can evolve then it may be relevant for Wimbledon.”
With Yahoo UK