In tennis, perhaps more than any other sport, the quality of the surface is everything.
The tennis grass seeds used at Wimbledon are carefully chosen to provide a beautiful green hue, robust blades and less sensitivity to the compression and mowing needed to create the best grass playing surface.
If you want to see what happens when the quality of the grass is less considered, we need only look at the most bizarre tennis match in history, part of the greatest rivalry men’s tennis has ever seen.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were in 2007 the best two men’s tennis players in the world and had a fierce rivalry, but what made their rivalry unique compared to other legendary feuds is that they were effectively unbeatable on their favourite surface.
Mr Federer was great on almost every surface, from astroturf to hardcourt, but he was unbeatable on grass. For five years straight he was unbeaten on grass, including five straight Wimbledon men’s singles titles.
Mr Nadal, on the other hand, was an incredible player on all surfaces but had an almost-superhuman superiority on clay, as used in the French Open and Madrid Masters. He had not lost in three years and won 72 straight matches on the surface that benefited his aggressive baseline play.
Because of this, a bizarre exhibition match was proposed and later played at the Palma Arena in Palma de Mallorca, Mr Nadal’s home island.
Known as the “Battle of Surfaces”, the tennis court was split in half, with half of the court played on grass and half played on clay.
The court took 19 days and over £1m to construct, but its construction was fraught with issues.
The initial turf they planned to use for the grass side was infested by worms, a consequence of the indoor conditions of the Palma Arena.
On the eve of the event, the organisers rushed to get any kind of grass surface to replace the worm-riddled turf, eventually finding some putting green grass that saved the event, although it meant the grass-court was woeful in its quality.
Balls would not bounce properly, simply dying and rolling on impact, giving the grass-side player a distinct disadvantage compared to the excellent clay surface.
Whilst Rafa would win 7-5, 4-6, 7-6, the event left people with more questions than answers, with a resolution finally found in the exceptional 2008 Wimbledon finale, where Rafa Nadal finally beat Federer on a grass court.