ATP Players to Watch on Grass: Draper, Shapo, Bublik & More

by Bren Gray
adrian mannarino

Some players are still knocking the red dirt off their shoes after Roland-Garros, but the ATP Tour has already moved on. Five weeks of non-stop grass court action begins this week, with the surface a stark contrast to clay.

While clay courts favor those with heavy spin, patience and the cardio to grind out points, grass is all about movement, slicing, big weapons and getting to the net. Who does this favor? These are the five players we’ve got our eye on heading into the grass court season in 2024.

Adrian Mannarino

Frenchman Adrian Mannarino (image above) is perhaps the most iconic grass court player of this generation. In an era when player styles and racquet technology have leveled out the differences between surfaces, Mannarino is one of the few remaining grass court specialists on Tour.

Just look at his career win rate on clay vs grass: 21.1 percent compared to 59.8 percent!

The 35-year-old seems to only be getting better with age. Earlier this year, he hit a career-high ranking of No 17 in the world, and remains at an impressive No 21. Not too bad for someone that can’t buy a win on clay.

His 2024 began with a bang making the round of 16 in Melbourne. This was a continuation of his momentum from late 2023, where he won a fifth title in Sofia to round out the season–his third of the year.

While his form has taken a dip since then, it’s to be expected. This time last year, Mannarino came into the grass season 2-8 across his last 10 matches. Still, he went on to make two quarter-finals and a final across the three ATP 250s he contested.

Each year, around about June, the veteran emerges from his hibernation and hits the grass hunting for upsets. This year, we say it will be no different.

Alexander Bublik

Alexander Bublik

Speaking of seasoned players who are reaching new heights, Alexander Bublik is another potential dark horse on the grass this year.

Bublik’s career win rate on grass far exceeds any other surface he’s competed on. The Kazakh sits at an impressive 64.4 percent success rate on grass, compared to 51.3 percent on hard courts and 40.4 percent on clay.

He won his first ATP title in 2022 and last year, Bublik showed the ATP Tour just how dangerous his booming serve and unorthodox shot-making can be on grass. The 26-year-old picked up his second ATP title in Halle, sweeping aside the likes of Jannik Sinner, Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev en route to victory.

He then backed that up with a run to the round of 16 at Wimbledon, falling ever-so-slightly short in a five-setter against Rublev.

Now, Bublik enters the grass season in even better shape than he’s ever been. He sits at a career-high ranking of No 17 in the world, having added two more titles to his name since he was last here. The big-server holds a handy 19-12 record in 2024, with a title in Montpellier plus a final in Dubai. 

Expect him to be a real handful on the slick European grass once more.

Jack Draper

One player that is a real grass dark horse is Jack Draper. The Brit has a huge game–one that’s rarely seen, due to his regular injury issues.

However, should the 22-year-old be able to keep himself fit and healthy for the next month, then he’ll be a real danger on grass. Draper moves at an elite level on the surface, and will be playing in front of home crowds for good chunks of the grass court season–including, crucially, at Wimbledon.

There’s a reason some big names have been rating Draper as a future top 10 star for years now. The leftie has brilliant defense and a wicked forehand, plus the natural athleticism needed to thrive in today’s game.

His results of late have been hit and miss. He finished 2023 strong with a run to the round of 16 in New York, followed by a Challenger title and final in Sofia. This was carried on in January with a narrow loss in the final of Adelaide, and a semi-final in Acapulco in February.

Since then, Draper has lost a series of close matches. Five of his last eight losses have come in deciding sets. We say the change in surface is all the Brit needs to turn those narrow losses into wins, and by the time Wimbledon rolls around, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

Hubert Hurkacz

Usually, Hubert Hurkacz can’t wait for the clay season to be over so he can hit the faster grass courts.

This year, however, the big-serving Pole hits the lawn already in strong form. Hurkacz enters the change in surface having strung together a career-best 14-4 European clay court season, including a maiden clay court title in Estoril. 

Hurkacz at the BOSS Open

Thanks to his rocket of a serve, Hurkacz owns a 62.5 percent win rate on grass–his best on any surface. On average, he serves an ace 13.4 percent of the time when the court is green, giving him plenty of free points. His net game and backhand are also very well suited to the pace of court.

The world No 8 has previously made a Wimbledon semi-final, and we say he’s a great chance of doing so again this year. His confidence is sky-high, and the 27-year-old is seeing the ball better than ever. 

He’ll also be able to play freely, as last year, his results on grass were slightly down. Defending just a semi-final in Stuttgart, and round of 16s in Halle and Wimbledon, the Pole has ample opportunity to improve his career-high ranking this month.

Denis Shapovalov

Time for a real dark horse. Remember Denis Shapovalov? Seems like a long time ago that the Canadian was storming his way to the Wimbledon semi-finals. 

Thing is, Shapovalov is still only 25 years old. While he might have slipped from front of mind due to his lapse in form and subsequent injury layoffs, the former world No 10 has undeniable talent. And he’s still young enough to make a comeback.

Shapovalov sits at No 117 in the world right now, but has been showing some encouraging signs in 2024. Wins over Frances Tiafoe and Stefanos Tsitsipas earlier this year were a reminder of how lethal his groundstrokes can be when they’re firing.

Statistically, it’s tough to build a case for Shapovalov on grass. It’s not the surface he’s won on the most, nor does he have a big serve that can take advantage of the court’s pace.

However, his 2021 Wimbledon semi-final run, plus other big runs on grass in the past (2023 Wimbledon round of 16, 2021 Queen’s semi-finalist, 2021 Stuttgart and 2018 Eastborne quarter-finalist), give us confidence that he can do it again.

Agree with our predictions? Think we’ve missed someone who’s going to make a splash over the next five weeks? Let us know in the comments below.

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Max June 12, 2024 - 21:36

Any thoughts on how Dimitrov will do on the grass this year? I think he could make wimby semi’s, if he doesn’t face Alcaraz/Sinner/peak Berrettini before then.

Jonas Eriksson June 13, 2024 - 14:28

Yex, I believe Dimitrov has a great chance at making a run. He looks focused in 2024.

Nickhil June 16, 2024 - 08:39

Don’t sleep on Berrettini. He was top 10 and will come back on grass.

Stardust June 16, 2024 - 22:25

I have a feeling, Daniil [Medvedev] and [Andrey] Rublev can do something on grass. Since they can get a deep run on it, so long they not run into Alcaraz/Sinner/Hubi that is

Andrew June 18, 2024 - 09:51

Add De Minaur to the list!

Looks like he switched late last year from a 16×18 Steam to a 16×19 pattern… do you still think it is a Steam?


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