Polyureth(ings) you didn’t know about Wimbledon

It’s tennis season! Actually, tennis is played throughout the year and across the globe; nevertheless, one of the most exciting times for any tennis fan is unfolding as we speak: the 2012 Wimbledon Championships.

Wimbledon, the oldest and arguably most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, is in full force and more dramatic than ever: despite obvious contenders like Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams making the latter rounds, early favourites including number one seed Maria Sharapova and number two seed Rafael Nadal were eliminated early on. The tournament, which began 25 June, will conclude on Sunday, 8 July, with over 150 countries glued to their television sets.

Of course, these are all things you most likely knew already (if not, you can update yourself here!). There are, however, a few polyureth(ings) you probably didn’t know about Wimbledon:

  • Centre Court is the main court at Wimbledon. Constructed in 1922, it went through significant renovation in 2009. One of the most historically daunting factors at Wimbledon has been the rain and thus an important part of renovation was the construction of a retractable roof to ensure England’s world famous weather conditions didn’t ruin too many games. The stadium’s lack of space, however, meant that a traditional sliding roof was not possible, so architects designed a concertina folding system requiring 214 motor driven parts to cover the 77m wide court. To deliver certainty of play, the architects decided upon polyurethane cables for the electric power and control side due to its “high flexibility … [and] low adhesion all weather outer sheath”.
  • Wimbledon has a notoriously strict dress code: clothes must be “predominantly white” while any logos must be “discreet”. Radek Stepanek, for example, was asked to remove his bright red and blue shoes! Though Wimbledon tends to refuse to compromise on the colour, polyurethane has graced tennis attire through footwear. The Adidas Barricade 6.0 tennis shoe, worn by Novak Djokovic, uses thermoplastic polyurethane triple strips in the forefoot to increase “lateral stability” and a polyurethane outsole for “durability”. Not to brag, but polyurethane is also comfortable!
  • Racquets also have certain rules to follow; for today’s modern game, racquets must have strings composing the hitting area (often made of polyurethane as the case for the Wilson NXT Control line to absorb vibration and reduce shock), a frame no larger than 29 inches in length and 12.5 inches in width, and (as a result of modern technology) not provide any kind of communication, instruction or advice to the player during the match. Roger Federer is known to prefer the Wilson Pro Overgrip for his racquet handle, also made of polyurethane!
  • Ok, ok, Wimbledon is played on grass; this gives the tournament venue the name ‘The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club’. Many Grand Slam tournaments, including the Australian and US Open, however, utilise polyurethane in the courts! The Australian Open, which is played in January and thus in the middle of summer, uses a hard court surface composed of polyurethane and synthetic rubber; the decision to use polyurethane comes from the materials ability to make the surface “more durable under heat stress” and for giving the court plexicushion attributes, allowing the ball to move faster.

We’ll stop here and let you enjoy the tennis. In case the game has been stopped temporarily, please enjoy these historic (polyurethane) tennis moments at Wimbledon:

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