â€œYou expect the court, obviously, to be great,â€ Murray said. â€œThe bounces and stuff were absolutely perfect. Thereâ€™s no bad bounces. Itâ€™s always, you know, a little bit slippy the first match. The grass is very lush. So that was the only thing â€” you need to be a little bit careful of your footing. But the court played very well. No bad bounces or anything. It was perfect.â€
Such reviews have allowed Stubley, just the eighth groundsman in the clubâ€™s 146-year history, to slip back behind the scenes, where he wants to be. During Wimbledon, though, he swaps his work shorts and T-shirt for slacks, dress shirt and tie, part of the tournamentâ€™s formality. At 45, he blends into the debonair world of tennis, his build slim, his face tanned. His temples are lined with crowâ€™s-feet, marks of someone who spends time squinting outdoors.
He oversees 16 full-time employees, expanded to about 30 for Wimbledon, who tend to 19 competition courts and 22 practice courts. The grass is nurtured all year with one primary goal: to be perfect for the tournamentâ€™s opening. After that, the grounds crew tries to maintain it, amid the toil of countless footsteps and the vagaries of an English summer.
â€œThatâ€™s the balancing act, having the right amount of moisture in the plant at the start of the tournament to make sure it can hold the moisture until the end,â€ Stubley said. â€œFor that to happen, the court will always be slightly lush at the start of the tournament, and as you get slowly into the latter part of the first week and into the second week, the court naturally firms up more, the surface starts to dry, and it becomes a lot more grippy.â€