Outwardly, Wimbledon is more saturated with tradition than any other tennis tournament, although it undergoes more radical changes on a daily basis than any other Grand Slam because it is the only one that plays on grass. Since its grass field gradually loses moisture and then the grass plots themselves, players have to constantly change.
Fifty years ago many tournaments, including three of the four Grand Slams, were played on grass. But today many players play only one or two tournaments before Wimbledon on the grass field.
“Players are on solid courts almost all year round and there is no doubt about it, but they do not get many repetitions on the grass,” said Tracey Austin, a tennis channel analyst who reached the two semifinals and won the mixed doubles title at Wimbledon. “Players are psychiatric because of the grass.”
As Ian Westermann, author of “Essential Tennis,” said, “Players have to solve problems and think on their feet.”
Wimbledon used to be even more outstanding, but in a way that made a lot of fans repetitive and boring. The grass pitch plays fast and the ball stays low, so matches were once an attack on service- and volleyball points, which reduced the drama. In 2001, the tournament replaced grass, replacing a mixture consisting of 70 percent rye and 30 percent creeping red fescue with 100 percent rye grass.
The new lawn made the courts more durable and had a cleaner turn, while Wimbledon allowed the soil to be kept drier and firmer. This led to a higher jump and slowed down the game, which Eddie Seward, who was then the main defender, acknowledged was necessary for the good of the sport.
Service and volleyball quickly collapsed. Brain Game Tennis website CEO Craig O’Shea said that in 2002, 33 percent of men’s scores stood out with this approach, but three years later that number dropped to 19 percent. Since 2008, service and volleyball have been used by 5 to 10 percent.
But O’Shea cited statistics that show that even after declining usage, service and volleyball remained the winning tactics: two-thirds of service and volleyball scores were won by men, a figure that has not changed in two decades. O’Shea mentioned the “herd mentality” for abandoning tactics and said players should attack more often.
Austin said the rally is now part of Wimbledon. He said that after the string and game style changes gave the returnees more weapons against service and flight, players began to engage in grass-based rally rallies.
Service and volleyball are “successful because they are unpredictable,” he said, adding that players no longer learn and no longer practice service and volleyball styles, so they are not comfortable doing so often.
Wimbledon still needs a set of skills and thinking different from other Grand Slams. Although there are longer basic competitions now, Westermann said, “Grass prefers first-kick tennis. You just have to take your shot. ”
Patrick McEnroe, an ESPN analyst, said in his time players had to immediately charge the net because the service fee was otherwise very low, but now the ball went high enough for the server to strike an aggressive shot.
“It’s easier to hit the first ball from the middle of the pitch with your forehand than with volleyball,” McEnroe said. “And mediocre volleyball is likely to rise higher now, giving your opponent a better chance of striking back.”
Austin said the “service plus one” style was not always possible without great service, but McEnroe said players needed to focus on “taking the ball forward and moving forward” in order to score points with one or two shots.
Westermann said large servers at Wimbledon could still go further than other Grand Slam surfaces, while McEnroe added that the wide-slice service is particularly efficient because it is harder to access and more difficult to recover on a low, fast court.
In addition, Wimbledon favors players who can hit the court with a heavy, flat ground shot. Topspin, the shot that brought Rafael Nadal endless success on the clay, is less effective here as the dead jump leaves the ball in the opponent’s comfort zone.
In order to optimize the lower gear, Austin and McEnroe said that Beckhand – important for Roger Federer’s Wimbledon fame – was an essential weapon. “The piece stays so low and spins even more on squirrel grass, especially because there are still uneven rotations there,” Austin said.
More than other surfaces, the grass rewards players who can improvise with low or poor jumps, McEnroe said. “Clay requires more points to build, but the advantage over grass is the higher-tech players who have the best racket skills,” he said.
The jumps are lower and the ball moves slowly in the first week, O’Shennes said, because there is more water in the grass blades. “Your buttocks and thighs will be more sore from falling down while playing on the grass,” he said.
Austin said the humidity also causes players to swim, adding that “it hits them in the back” because they are worried about potential injuries.
McEnroe said players could not just explode and run away. “Your legs should be light and before you run, you should think about how to stop them?” He said.
By the beginning of the second week, the grass dries out and the soil hardens – without rain – producing a higher turnover, which enhances topspin.
As regular players in the second week, returning players have an advantage, O’Shennes said: “They are experienced in dealing with grass because it turns to dust and dirt.” “You often move between two different surfaces and if you are not used to it, it can be difficult,” he said.
The dirt around the baseline, where the players hit a lot of shots, not only shifts the rebound, but it also becomes slippery. “Complaining about dirt is another Wimbledon tradition,” Westermann said.
While it may be tempting for players to work better on their feet and adapt to time, he said this tactic allows opponents to move on the attack.
“In return, the players have to double and take the ball earlier,” he said. “Confident and aggressive players will be rewarded.”