Friday, June 29

Shutting the roof can give you fuzzy balls

You know that £80 million roof they fitted? The one they shut last night to let the match between Rosol and Nadal run on late into the evening? Well, I don't want to rain on anyone's parade (or Centre Court), but there may be some issues about its use. (But then again, maybe not).
Steve Haake: ball expert
Steve Haake, professor of sports engineering and the head of the Centre for Sports Engineering Research at Sheffield Hallam University, has written an article that looks at the impact of playing under the closed Centre Court roof. It's a great read and, for idiots like myself, even has pictures to show what he's talking about. And the section headings are nice and simple: The British weather, A 130 mph serve, Size really does matter and The best guess.

Yup, got it. All very straight forward.

But one word of warning: Don't be fooled by his easy & conversational manner of writing. Before I knew it, I was reading this:

 "...since the atomic weight of water vapour is 18 g compared to 29 g for air and there is now less water vapour around, click here for a detailed explanation...".

Under no circumstances should you click on the 'click here'. I did, and my tiny, non-scientific head exploded. That aside, the article explains why playing under the closed roof may (or may not) slow down (or speed up) the balls. But he comes to the (scientific) conclusion that the most likely reason that Things May Be Different under the closed roof is, quite simply, fluff.

He says: "...the effect is to increase the wetting of the felt and enhance the fluffing up of the ball. A simple solution could be to change the balls when the roof closes..."   That makes sense. I understand that.

He ends with this simple suggestion:

"Watch the players next time the roof closes at Wimbledon – if the players start inspecting the felt and throwing balls away, then they are likely to be choosing the least fuzzy ones."

It felt like he wrote that bit especially for me to understand.

Read the full article.

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