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Wimbledon and Humidity Woes

Written by Alex under Air Conditioners, Dehumidifiers, General | No Comments ""

Wimbledon and Humidity Woes

Wimbledon fans have been hoping for glorious sunshine to accompany 2011’s tennis tournament which began last Monday. Instead the weather has been largely poor with the ever-promised UK heat wave never quite coming to fruition. Scorching temperatures have only occurred for short moments and at random intervals during this year’s event thus far.

But did you know that the weather – or more specifically; the level of humidity – can have an effect on how a game of tennis pans out?

It has been scientifically proven that high humidity can increase the mass of tennis balls and this can affect how high a ball will bounce after impact with the ground. In addition to this, humidity affects the ways in which racket strings behave.

In fact it was reported by The Telegraph last week that Britain’s current number 1 (and also ranking as the world’s 4th best player) Andy Murray’s first game against Daniel Gimeno-Traver was affected by a change to the levels of humidity after the roof of the court was closed due to bad weather.

“[The roof] definitely slows the court down”, commented Murray after the match.

The Science Explained

The most common racket strings are made from “gut” (read as; animal intestine) and are usually provided with a coating in order to reduce the material’s tendency to unravel whenever it becomes humid or wet (such coatings have different levels of success). Many varieties of racket string absorb moisture caused by humid conditions and this can soften and loosen the tension of racket beds. The softness of a string bed can indicate how much moisture has been absorbed (i.e. the softer it is, the more moisture likely absorbed).

Beds with the wrong or an inconsistent tension can affect the speed and spin of the tennis ball after impact.

Mark Kidger – an aerospace engineer who has written several books including The Physics of Cricket – argued that it is the tennis ball (and not the racket) which is central to the changes in play resulting from increased humidity.

“The roof traps the humidity inside the court [...] You’ve got 15,000 people inside, all breathing and sweating away, and then there is the moist surface of the grass, which will be releasing more water vapour into the atmosphere”, began Kidger, as he explained his theory to the Telegraph Sport.

“The ball will suck in some of that water vapour and so become a little bit heavier and slower, both through the air and especially off the court. When it bounces, it will sit up nicely to be hit rather than rushing through as normal”, Kidger claimed.

When the All England Club had the roof installed back in 2009, nine air cooling machine were concurrently installed which switch on whenever the rood is closed. Although these machines pump 143,000 litres of chilled air through the arena every second, this is clearly not enough to deal with the high moisture levels.

Perhaps the club should invest in a colossal dehumidifier (or two hundred!) to deal with the increased humidity cause by roof closings. Players of Wimbledon and the rest of us will inevitably face more bad weather before the tournament comes to its end!



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