King of Queen's passes the crown to his son

After 44 years, the grounds manager has passed responsibility for the pre-Wimbledon tournament, which starts tomorrow, to the next generation

The year David Kimpton started working at the Queen's Club, Australian Roy Emerson took the title and England won the World Cup. More than four decades on, he is hoping it is a "good omen" and the football success is repeated for his retirement.

The bubbly 65-year-old handed over the reins as grounds manager at the west London tennis club – where Andy Murray this week defends his Aegon Championship title – to his son Graham, 41, in February after 44 years tending the world-famous courts.

He gleefully recalls taking his favourite player Jimmy Connors for a ride on a colleague's 1,500cc Kawasaki motorbike when the American arrived to practise before a Wimbledon semi-final that afternoon.

"I was trying it out – it was a brilliant new bike – and he came along and jumped on with a racquet under his arm and said, 'Come on Dave, let's go for a spin'," he reminisces from one of the bright blue stands overlooking the centre court, as painters, builders and gardeners finish off six weeks of preparations for welcoming the public tomorrow. "I was a bit worried, [thinking] if you fall off and break an arm ... He didn't seem to worry about it. He had all the confidence in the world in me because I'd known him for a long time, so he trusted me."

And then there was the prank he played on Ivan Lendl after the former world number one hid his equipment for marking out courts. David and Graham, who started work in 1985 after five years at Norwood Hall horticultural college, removed the wheels, saddle and handlebars from the player's bicycle and returned the parts one by one.

The two have enjoyed a "good working relationship" for 25 years. "If there was ever anything bad I just told my mum and she sorted him out," jokes Graham. But David will be parted from his "baby" (the courts) tomorrow.

Preparing for the tournament is an all-year job, with eight ground staff maintaining and repairing the exclusive members' club's 50 courts, including 20 grass courts, mending machinery and working on fencing and pathways. When David started in 1966, following a five-year apprenticeship at Fulham's Hurlingham Club under the supervision of his elder brother Peter, most work was done manually. Now Graham's staff use mini-tractors.

But they still use pedestrian mowers and face the same problems as amateur gardeners. As we watch four-time Queen's champion Andy Roddick practising, Graham explains how the push mowers allow for narrower stripes on the grass and greater accuracy in aligning them to the white court markings. During the tournament, the match courts are mown once a day and practice courts twice.

Foxes are the biggest nuisance, with the strong ammonia in their urine burning the grass. The animals chewed their way through nine nets, each worth about £110, in one season.

Despite these setbacks, Graham has obviously inherited his dad's enthusiasm for the job. "When you see Roddick or someone being interviewed and they say it's a great court, it's all you need," he says.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum