FEDEX ATP PERFORMANCE ZONE
FedEx ATP Performance Zone: Great On Grass
FedEx ATP Win-Loss Index: Career Grass-Court Records
by ATP Staff|
ATPWorldTour.com explores the secrets of success on grass courts, using the FedEx ATP Performance Zone.
Crushed brick will soon be replaced by mown lawns. Ribbed soles have been unlaced in favour of pimple-soled shoes. Baseline battles and lengthy rallies won't be commonplace as knee-bending, dinks and sliced shots are now essential for success during the five-week grass-court swing. In 2015, the MercedesCup in Stuttgart will become a grass-court event in an expanded six-week season on the surface.
In ATP history, since 1973, Roger Federer leads the FedEx ATP Win-Loss Index for career grass-court matches with a 122-18 mark and 13 titles (.871 per cent). Federer has clinched seven of his record 17 Grand Slam championships at Wimbledon, with six coming at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, where he will compete next week.
John McEnroe is second among players who have competed since 1973, with a 119-20 grass-court record and eight titles (.856), followed by Bjorn Borg, who won Roland Garros and Wimbledon back-to-back for three straight years (1978-80). The Swede, who was the first to wear pimpled grass-court soles, compiled a 61-11 mark, including five Wimbledon titles (.847).
Andy Murray, the reigning Wimbledon champion and four-time titlist at the Aegon Championships, is 73-14 (.839) on grass and has not been beaten on the surface in 18 matches. Rod Laver (147-29, .835) and Pete Sampras, who won 10 titles and ended his career with a 101-20 tally (.835), are tied fifth overall since 1973.
So what attributes are needed to succeed? Seven-time Wimbledon champion Sampras believes it is "a person who moves well on grass and is a good athlete. When I played folks said that the serve was the key, but I always felt the return of serve was the key."
Australian John Newcombe, a three-time titlist at the All England Club, says, "A classical grass-court player must have a very good offensive and defensive volley, which has to be backed up by a solid serve that features a variety of pace and spin."
Neither Sampras nor Newcombe found the transition from clay to grass-court play difficult. It was entirely natural to them. "It was more of a mind set and making minor adjustments to your strokes," says Sampras. "At the end of the day by the time you get to Wimbledon you should have had plenty of time on the grass to make those adjustments."
Over the past 12 years, serve and volley play has dwindled. The 2002 Wimbledon final featured, for the first time, two players, Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian, who played solely from the baseline.
Indian Vijay Amritraj, a long-time favourite among British galleries, says, "Grass-court technique and play was different 30 years ago, when I played. It was a tremendous attacking game and you cut off shots with volleys. Today, there is pretty much no serve and volley. The game does not warrant it. The serve and volleying games of Stefan Edberg, Patrick Rafter and Tim Henman are long gone."
Newcombe agrees. "Most players today can put away a volley at net height or above but hardly any can volley effectively below net height such as Edberg and Rafter could. The problem is not so much in the court speed but the players' lack of ability to play difficult volleys. Subsequently there is a natural reluctance to come to the net."
Federer and Murray are the only active players among the Top 30 in the all-time grass-court matches list. Murray has put together a 24-2 record on the surface over the past two seasons.
"I think you have to have a weapon to be successful," said three-time Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick, who attacked the net off his serve. "Sampras was able to serve himself through bad days on grass. The reason I feel I am good on grass is that everything I do naturally translates well to grass, whereas on clay I always feel like I am battling myself a bit."
Another former World No. 1, Hewitt admits, “If you go in with the wrong mind set, then it doesn't matter about your footwork. If you're positive about playing on grass, then normally you have to be a lot sharper on your feet instead of sliding through the shot like you do on clay.”