Christian Engelmann values a good night’s sleep. And that’s why the 58-year-old from Munich prefers to play it safe. At the tennis tournament in Berlin, he and his company are responsible for the three grass courts on the LTTC Rot-Weiss facility – or more precisely, for ensuring that they can be played on as equally well as possible throughout the week. Covering the courts at night is a basic prerequisite for this, because there is nothing worse for Engelmann and his three employees than being surprised by a night shower.
With the tarpaulin over the grass, there can be no rude awakening, even if the risk of rain tends towards zero these days. “I’ve experienced a lot there,” says Engelmann with a laugh and looks relaxed at seats number one and two directly behind Center Court. At least since he was assured from all sides that it wouldn’t rain overnight and around 5 When dark clouds suddenly gathered around the clock, he knew: When the day comes, the tarpaulin has to go up.
Overall, however, the Berlin week is a relaxed one for his team. “It was completely different in Stuttgart recently because it rained so much there,” he says. And rain is a lawn’s worst enemy. For the tennis players, but above all for the court itself. The temperatures above 30 degrees in bright sunshine that are announced for the weekend in Berlin, on the other hand, cannot really worry him, even if he knows: “A grass court like this plays very early on after a hot one different day than in the evening.”
In the morning, the courts are first uncovered, then mowed. Every day at a height of eight millimeters – just like in Wimbledon, for which the event in Berlin serves as preparation. And that’s why the courses should play as similar as possible to those in south-west London. Whereby such a turf has to go through a lot in a tournament week. Four matches take place daily in the Steffi Graf Stadium, with the quarterfinals on Friday. “In the meantime we can’t do anything on the pitch,” explains Engelmann. Nevertheless, you can always see him walking back and forth on the system a little nervously and with headphones in his ears.
Neil Stubley, the legendary Wimbledon greenkeeper with the official title of “Head of Courts and Horticulture” and thus indirectly Engelmann’s client, has not called yet. That can certainly be seen as a vote of confidence, especially since the German has a lot of experience with the different greens in tennis, golf and soccer. After Stuttgart and Berlin, the tournament in Bad Homburg will follow for his crew next week. And then? “Maybe I’ll go to Wimbledon,” he says jokingly.
The players in Grunewald have so far been very satisfied with the underground, at least he hasn’t heard any complaints, says Engelmann. For him, however, such a tournament is always a double-edged sword, because after seven days and numerous games, his lawn, which has been maintained for months, no longer looks as fresh as it did at the beginning. “Of course we try to counteract this a bit with irrigation. But then again, it shouldn’t be too much,” says Engelmann.
He himself has never played tennis on grass, but he thinks differently than Ivan Lendl, who once said “grass is only for cows”. Engelmann can enjoy the beauty of the growth just as much as the performance of the professionals on it. For amateur athletes, however, tennis on grass is hardly feasible, at least in Germany. Because – and who would know better – such a place is simply very maintenance-intensive. Although he also knows well-heeled people who would put a lawn in their own garden. Make something.
As a graduate in agricultural engineering, Engelmann is concerned about the increasing drought everywhere in Germany. In Berlin, it is currently particularly pronounced, this spring the otherwise usual morning dew is almost completely absent, also due to the wind. A lawn needs a corresponding amount of water. He recommends that hobby gardeners have the courage to water during the day for this hot weekend. “The magnifying glass effect of the sun on the lawn is a myth,” he says. If you blow up, it’s best to use a hose.
It’s quite possible that it will also be used on Saturday and Sunday in the Steffi Graf Stadium – to cool down the spectators a little. The summer break for the Berlin lawn guarded by Christian Engelmann will start next week.