Adjust. Adapt. It’s Grass time

13 Jun

This should get you in the mood for grass. A few points from Queen’s, in the lead-up to Wimbledon. Is that summer in England?

In one of the idiosyncratic nuances of the world tennis tour, play shifts from the European clay-court season to the hallowed grass of Wimbledon. In the space of 3 weeks player’s are expected to go from the energy sapping suffering of grinding extended rallies, baseline scrambling, a blood-on-the-knees defensive mindset – to the cut and thrust of grass-court tennis. And it is how well they adjust that makes the 4 week grass-court swing so entertaining.

Tournament officials have made the transition as comfortable as possible (without ever making the one really obvious change  – that is change the schedule). Grass courts have been rolled flat, and dried out as much as possible so they play slower, balls are a tad lighter, base-liners can now look to the grass without fear. From as far back as 2002 when Lleyton Hewitt’s big heart (and not so broken body) got him across the line in a warning shot to serve-and-volley players everywhere. And who did Little Lleyton face in that 2002 Wimbledon final? Grumpy baseliner Davide Nalbandian. What happened at the mecca of serve-and-volley?

For a start the courts at Wimbledon are harder, the bounce higher putting more balls into the baseliners strike zone. With the new media centre and underground facilities the courts are now laid on a concrete base. And following years of frustration watching the court deteriorate quite literally by the second week of the tournament officials began experimenting with the grass itself. Since 1993  the surface has been steadily modified with the addition of more hard wearing rye grass, primarily to make it last the 2 weeks of The Championships. From a court that was a blend of 50% rye and 50% fescue and bent grasses, by 2002 and still today the surface is now 100% perennial rye. The rye grass grows vertically – so the sponge layer of fescue and bent grass that traditionally aided the serve-and-volley player has gone. So to the serve-and -volley player. Gone.

Enough of that – who’s going to win? Hate to sit on the fence at this point – but stick with Djokovic / Nadal or Federer and in the women’s there’s only one – Serena.

The PRO.

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