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Grass is always greener for groundsman Seaward

sports Updated: Jun 29, 2007 18:39 IST
Paul Majendie
Paul Majendie
Reuters
Grass is always greener for groundsman Seaward

Eddie Seaward loves to watch the grass grow at Wimbledon.

"I wouldn't swap my job for anything," said Seaward, chief groundsman at the All England Club, who has to nurture its hallowed lawns through to a two-week battering every summer.

Seaward, an avid tennis fan who used to queue up for seats at the world's most famous grasscourt tournament, has spent the last 18 years overseeing the courts.

Working a 16-hour day, Seaward has been sorely tested this year with showers and storms battering southwest London and his staff kept busy covering and uncovering the courts.

"It has been difficult but we are used to this scenario," Seaward told Reuters, snatching a few brief minutes to chat before going back on lawn patrol.

He must rank as one of the few people at Wimbledon who is happy there is no roof on Centre Court this year as the tournament embarks on the installation of a retractable cover.

"It has helped the grass. The court has been given much more air and light," Seaward said.

Wimbledon is the only grand slam tournament still played on grass after the U.S. and Australian Opens switched to less labour-intensive and more predictable hard courts in 1978 and 1987 respectively.

On a typical Wimbledon tournament day, Seaward rings in just after 6 a.m. and arrives before seven, to help get the covers off, mow and do his rounds.

"I have been checking it after the storms and for the last two to three nights have not got away until 10," he said.

Seaward has had to contend with some intriguing foes over the years.

Finnegan the Falcon is brought in to patrol the skies and keep off pigeons whose droppings contain high levels of ammonia that can ruin the grass.

Another peril is foxes, especially vixen.

He had small electric fences installed round centre and number one courts just in case the families of foxes who live inside the grounds decided to use the show arenas as lavatories.

Seaward revels in the history of the tournament founded in 1877. "This is a job I am privileged to do and the crowds have a real reverence for Wimbledon. It is steeped in tradition."

At 63, Seaward is in no rush to ride his lawnmower off into the sunset. "I would love to see it through to the London Olympics in 2012," he said.