Ground crew hope Aegon Open Nottingham courts will be up to Wimbledon standard

Friday, June 05, 2015

Centre Court at the Nottingham Tennis Centre is almost ready to stage the Aegon Open.

With a world class line-up, the ground crew at Nottingham Tennis Centre are aiming to have a surface to match ahead of the Aegon Open.

In fact, their target is to get the grass courts as close in standard to those on show at Wimbledon as possible.

With the women's event under way this weekend, followed by the men's later in the month, final preparations to work which began in August are taking place.

And with this year seeing a new three-week window between the clay courts of the French Open and the third Grand Slam of the year in SW19, grounds manager Ryan Middleton is keen to give the players every advantage.


"We want to be as close to Wimbledon as we can, especially being a pre-Wimbledon ATP event for the men," he said.

"They're going to be here up until the Saturday and then they go to Wimbledon on the Sunday to sign in.

"If they come here and are playing on a nice surface that's quick and responsive, then they go to Wimbledon and we're close to that, then it's great preparation for the players.

"I think they find the transition between the clay court season and the grass court season quite difficult.

"They're playing on a surface that's slower, then grass court season is a shock, even for players who have been doing it for years."

Tests took place on the Nottingham courts today, with balls being fired out of a special machine.

"What they're looking for is the speed it comes off the surface at and looking for consistency," explained Middleton.

"They'll look at the bounce, the speed and the reaction of the surface and the ball together.

"The idea is to see if all venues – ourselves, Queen's, Wimbledon, Edgbaston, Eastbourne – see how similar everywhere is and make sure we're up to standard.

"We're making the grass court season a lot longer now with the extra tournament, so it's quite important for us and the players to have a very similar venue standard-wise."

Middleton has worked at the Tennis Centre for 18 years, on the grounds for 15 and has managed for the last three.

This year sees a particularly prestigious event, with top players such as Heather Watson and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga set to compete.

For Middleton and his assistants, Wayne Thomas and Tatenda Mukome, however, the standards have never dropped.

"The tournaments we've got are higher rated tournaments," he said.

"But for the Challenger events we had men's and women's for two weeks back-to-back with no rest.

"This year, the ladies event is single-sex event, then there's a five-day break, then we've got another single-sex event after that.

"The amount of play on the court, I don't think that same demand is quite there.

"And they're just using the nine courts this year. For the men's and women's Challenger events, we had to have the practice events at the University, so we actually had 15 courts to look after.

"Although the events are a lot higher and there's a lot more pressure in terms of the players and their expectations, as a venue, we always put in 100 per cent."

He added: "The last couple of days with the wind and rain, it's been very challenging.

"But we've got there. I've got a really good team around me, they don't need watching over, they know what they're doing.

"They're perfectionists, which is great. I can trust what they're doing they're doing to the best of their ability."

Reprinted courtesy of Nottingham Post



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