It's the oldest excuse in the Wimbledon book - if a tennis match doesn't go your way, blame the grass. But, this year, the lovingly-manicured turf has been subject to a particularly loud chorus of complaints from players, leading to concerns that the hot, dry weather has made it dangerous going in to the second week of play.
On Sunday, the only day of rest for the beaten-down blades, All England Club staff were working to restore the courts to their earlier glory before the busiest day in the professional calendar.
Head groundsman Neil Stubley and his team tended to the grass ahead of Manic Monday, when the top four seeded male players - Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic - will all be playing matches.
The courts at Wimbledon are arguably the most technologically advanced courts worldwide and the team at Wimbledon, in preparing the courts each year, leave nothing to chance.
Monday will also bring with it the first rain showers of the tournament, predicted for the afternoon, which, while not such good news for the tennis, will bring some much-needed moisture to the grass.
Dave Saltman, managing director of Pitchcare came to Neil's defence saying that, when it came to Wimbledon, issues with the grass were as much about the players as the turf.
"The thing to remember is that a lot of players, particularly from abroad, are still not that used to playing on grass - they only play a few matches on it a year - and the court surface is always the first thing players will complain about if things go wrong," Dave said. "We groundsmen have got used to taking the blame, we're a thick-skinned bunch."
"This hot dry weather obviously does have an impact on the grass, it means the courts reach drought conditions in one day, regardless of how much it is watered the night before. But I have never seen the integrity of the ground at Wimbledon start to break up, even when it's been hot and there's less grass cover, so I don't think there's anything to be concerned about, the courts will certainly be sustainable for the next week of play."
Players including Federer, Djokovic and Murray all passed comment on the supposedly dry, hard and slippery condition of the grass, with the blame falling on the long spell of hot weather the south-east has experienced over the past two months.
Neil, only the eighth groundsman in the club's 146-year history, said the dry conditions presented a challenge, but stressed that he was in no doubt the grass courts would be in a good enough state going into the second week of the tournament.
"There's not a doubt, in our minds, that the courts will not be as good as they need to be for the end of The Championships," he said. "Obviously, we're dealing with the extreme heat, which we're not used to. We go into The Championships with as healthy of grass as we possibly can so we can endure those extremes. So, if we get extreme heat, or last year with the extreme wet, we can deal with it."
He said it was "just about making sure the hardness doesn't get too hard" and questioned the complaints of the players. "More slippery? I don't know if there's been more slips this year or there's just been a couple of high-profile ones. We looked at the baselines and the areas that they thought there was an issue. We didn't feel there was. The Grand Slam supervisor and Assistant Referee didn't believe that there was either."
You can read the original article from The Guardian HERE