June Tennis Diary

By Laurence Gale MSc

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The recent poor weather has certainly tested the patience of many Groundsmen up and down the country. The rather wet May has prevented or reduced the number of maintenance regimes taking place, such as rolling and mowing. Sward densities and consolidation of the soil profiles may have been affected. A reduction in sward density may eventually affect the performance of the courts later in the season. Lack of grass cover / root density can also change the binding strength of the clay soils, which in turn may well affect ball bounce and the wear tolerance of the courts during play.

Most Groundsmen will be hoping for a flaming June to bring some recovery to their courts. The warmer temperatures will stimulate the much needed grass growth required to promote good surfaces.

Rolling will still be a key maintenance regime in June, utilising a 1-1.5 tonne roller to periodically roll the courts both down and across the line of play when conditions allow. Try to achieve between 6-10 hours of rolling in any one given week prior to matches.

The rolling and the fact that soil profiles are now drying out will produce firmer, faster courts. This month sees the continuation of regular maintenance tasks - grass cutting, grooming, brushing, feeding and watering. Particular attention should be paid to the irrigation regimes; ensure that surfaces receive adequate and equal amounts of water to maintain turf growth. Sward height should be maintained between 6-8mm depending on the level of play.

If possible, and if you have a number of courts at your disposal, rotate the play, thus allowing time for recovery and any repairs and maintenance works to be carried out.

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Ideally, you should be brushing on a daily basis to remove early morning dew. Keeping the sward dry helps prevent disease attack. Verticutting on a fortnightly or even a weekly basis helps thin the sward and remove lateral growth, thus allowing good air circulation around the leaf blade which, in turn, increases respiration and transpiration rates of the grass plant.

You may need to stop verticutting operations if the courts become too dry.

Most natural grass courts have a clay loam top soil profile, ideally having 18% clay content, which can become compacted under moist conditions. It is essential to keep the playing surfaces open with adequate aeration regimes. During the playing season, however, it is best to refrain from using deep aerators and just use a sarrel roller to spike the top 4mm only. Aerating with deeper tines could lead to the courts drying out too quickly and cracking.

Mowing regimes will be dictated by the amount of play, the weather and what tournaments you may have. As a general rule of thumb, most courts should be cut a minimum of three times a week at a height of between 7-8mm.

Many groundsmen now facilitate a number of testing procedures to assess their courts, generally these tend to be ball bounce and hardness.

Ball bounce is simple, you just measure the height of a rebounding ball dropped from a pre determined height. Testing for hardness requires a specialist piece of equipment called the Clegg Hammer, which essentially consists of a hammer weighing 0.5 kg to which an accelerometer is attached.

The 0.5 kg "Light" Hammer was developed for testing softer materials such as turf or sand and is ideal for testing sports surfaces such as golf greens, cricket pitches, tennis courts. This equipment can be hired from specialist suppliers such as JMW limited. Recording and monitoring these two parameters will help have a better understanding of how your courts are performing.june-2006-dry-bounce-test.jpg

During tournaments the courts require daily mowing; this not only cleans up the sward but also firms and presents the surface for play.

Marking is important, lines need to be clean, straight and accurate; ensure your marking machine is cleaned and serviced, checking that all the components are working properly. There is northing worse than using a marker that drips and produces poor line quality. It will reflect on your workmanship. Remember to use string lines for accuracy.

Keep your turf fertilised, but sparingly, to help maintain vigour and colour. It is often best to use liquid products during the playing season, as you have more control over the application and they work more efficiently. Applying a 12-0-7 product will suffice and give the results you desire. Overdosing with high N fertilisers will only lead to lush growth which, in turn, will affect traction and wear on the courts.

After matches it is essential you clean up any loose debris and, if possible, do some minor repairs, applying small amounts of top dressing and seed to bare and worn areas.

Main wear areas are the base lines and service boxes; keep an eye on them.

It is essential to have water available for irrigation purposes. Irrigation is required for court preparation and repairs. Ensure that the water gets down into the rootzone, a minimum of 150mm, to encourage deep rooting. Check with a probe. Allow to dry out and repeat irrigation process. Allowing surfaces to remain dry can lead to problems of dry patch, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil, thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality. To help overcome dry patch the use of wetting agents have now become an integral part of the maintenance regime with applications being applied on a monthly basis throughout the summer.

Keep an eye open for any fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat the infected areas.

Remove any weeds from the playing surface, as they can affect ball bounce and performance of the court. Weeds can be removed by hand or by an application of chemical broadleaf selective weed killer.

Artificial Tennis Courts

Artificial grass systems

Weekly

Keep surface clean with regular sweeping and brushing. Remove any algae and moss from surface. Sand filled systems require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer's recommendations on sand levels and pile heights.

Plexipave Courts Weekly /As required. Keep clean and free of debris by regular brushing.

Power wash the courts twice a year to clean off any algae and moss. Use an approved Pesticide product to kill off the spores.

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Before/after games

Keep surface clean. Roll to consolidate surface. Level and brush in dressing materials and remove surplus to keep clean lines.

Clay courtsapril-diary-tennisEuroclayc.jpg

Weekly

Keep surface clean, regular sweeping and brushing to restore playing levels using SISIS Trulute or similar equipment. Top dress any hollows or damaged areas. Repaint lines.

Tarmacadam

Weekly

Keep surfaces clean, regular sweeping and brushing. Repair any hollows or damaged areas. Repaint lines.