The University of Massachusetts Joseph Troll Turf Research and Education Center hosted several accomplished grass-court tennis players on June 10. The goal? To help university researchers evaluate how different turfgrass surfaces affect play and stand up under real-life, match-play punishment.

According to the University of Massachusetts, the research was funded with a $60,000 grant from the New England Regional Turfgrass Foundation. J. Scott Ebdon, professor of agronomy and turfgrass science at the school’s Stockbridge School of Agriculture, along with colleagues including associate professor Michelle DaCosta, established three official-size single courts at the research center to evaluate turfgrass tolerance under actual tennis play.

Six experienced players from the Longwood Cricket Club (Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts) came to play at the turf research center to, according to Ebdon, “impose a useful level of traffic injury on grass courts to allow for evaluation of wear.” Using results of preliminary research, Ebdon and DaCosta, with Ph.D. student Alan Michael Turner, narrowed the number of grass cultivars and species in this test to eight. They used a combination of expert visual inspection, a light-reflecting machine and software to evaluate turf damage.

There are about 20 lawn tennis facilities in the U.S., located mostly in the Northeast from New Jersey to New England, according to the University of Massachusetts.

According to Ebdon, the University of Massachusetts is the only institution in the U.S. conducting research on natural grass for lawn tennis. “This research will directly benefit the turf manager responsible for maintaining any grass court and indirectly will benefit the player and society by improving the tolerance of the grass to traffic in match play,” he says.