Why do they play on a grass surface at Wimbledon?
Wimbledon is the world’s oldest tennis tournament and the only Grand Slam event played on grass. Why is the competition played on this surface?
Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world- the first one being held in 1877 at the All England Club in London, where it has been held since.
The contest is steeped in tradition- from the players wearing all-white outfits, to the audience members eating strawberries and cream during games.
Grass: The traditional tennis surface
It is the only Grand Slam event played on grass courts, and this is also due to tradition, as grass is the traditional playing surface in tennis. The sport was originally called “lawn tennis”, which is still how it is formally referred to in Britain.
In the past, all the majors were played on grass except for the French Open. The US Open, first held in 1881, used these courts until 1975, when they began to use clay, but then switched to a hardcourt surface in 1978.
The Australian Open held on to grass a bit longer, using it from the time the tournament was founded in 1905 until they switched to hardcourt in 1988.
The quirks of playing on grass
Playing on grass is challenging for most tennis players, as it is the fastest surface in the sport, with the ball having a lower bounce. This generally means the rallies are shorter, which also results in shorter games.
The competitors also have to play with special (all-white) shoes which have flat soles so they don’t damage the court, and need a good grip so they don’t slip on the slick surface.
Some players have been able to dominate grass, which makes them hard to beat at Wimbledon. Martina Navratilova tops the list with nine titles, while Roger Federer has eight to his name. Serena Williams and Steffi Graf have seven each, while Pete Sampras and Novak Djokovic trail Federer with seven and six titles respectively.