Seaward is SW19's guru of grass and he is still cutting edge

If Wimbledon is sporting theatre, Eddie Seaward is its stage manager, the chap who hones the All England Club's turf to pristine condition, then steps back to let the show go on, to reappear in the public gaze only in times of drought or monsoon during the fortnight in London SW19.

The 65-year-old is in his 20th year as Wimbledon's head groundsman, and he expresses gratitude that the All England Club have requested him to delay retirement until after the 2012 Olympic tennis there.

Eddie is protective, year-round, of his Centre Court turf. Nobody is allowed to set foot on it, except in pursuit of preparation work by his 14-strong permanent staff, until immediately before the tournament.

The Seaward gaze is especially severe. "I had a contractor walk on the court this year," he said. "I told his boss: 'There is a door there and if it happens again he is walking through it and not coming back.' Somebody walking on new tarmac and then going on to the grass could kill it."

He is "very conscious" of the reputation of that grass. "If I go away and start chatting to someone and they ask me where I work I never tell them, otherwise you are there forever more talking about Wimbledon. I just say I work at a tennis club in London."

That work escalates to ridiculous levels during the Wimbledon fortnight. Starting this morning, Eddie will have been collected from his Raynes Park home at 6.30am by car, having already done a thorough briefing on the weather prospects, and never leaves until at least an hour after the final match has come off court and he has, in his words, "got the courts watered and put to bed". A 17-hour day, at the very least.

Still, people tell him, it must be nice watching the fruits of your labour. A snort of amusement. "A French newspaper asked me did I enjoy that fantastic 2008 Federer-Nadal final and I said I had yet to watch it. I've got it on DVD at home."

This is, for Eddie, part of the downside of the Centre Court roof. "Whereas I used to be able to sit on Centre Court with the referee, watch a bit of the match and keep an eye on the weather, now if you've got the roof closed you don't know if it's raining or not, so you need to be outside if there are matches on other courts. I spend a lot of time on a bench by Court 14 looking at the clouds."

Outside the Wimbledon fortnight, he walks the three miles to work most days and, since the court care is done at his command rather than by his own hand, he enjoys mowing his own lawn. "My grass is OK," he smiles. "It is striped, it's green, weed-free."

What comes as a surprise is the revelation that the club's 28 courts were used by members, and then Wimbledon's actual competitors, until last night. "We finish play on the match courts at 6.30pm on Saturday ready to start play on Monday morning. So we have got just Sunday to sort everything out."

If spectators have ever wondered how the courts look so glorious on Monday morning, here's the answer: "If the grass is bruised by people playing on Saturday, you let it grow a little bit longer, then water it so you can lift the bruising and cut it out on Sunday."

Eddie says Wimbledon's new roof has been "generally good news". But despite a guesstimate outlay of £100 million (The All England Club never discuss costs), the familiar, oversized Boy Scout tent which is Centre Court's temporary cover will remain in use. It takes seconds to put in place, rather than the roof's minutes. "You can also get a scenario where you get a burst of rain that only lasts a couple of minutes," says Seaward. "It would be pointless operating the roof, so we will use a combination of the two."

Eddie's happiest moment? "When the umpire calls game, set and match for the last time." So he can get a bit of time off? Not a bit of it. "I maybe have the Monday off and then we are straight back into it, getting ready for club and other events."

There are times, however, when Wimbledon's guru of grass does take a break. A couple of years ago he saw a house in Cape Town which he loved. "I couldn't believe how cheap it was. I said to the agent, there has to be a catch."

The man told him the house came with a requirement to have the front garden professionally maintained.

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.

Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

Hanging with the Hoff

Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

Hipsters of Arabia

Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

The cult of Roger Federer

What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

Malaysian munchies

With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
10 best festival beauty

Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

A Different League

Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

Steve Bunce on Boxing

Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf