The special surface: Players to stand out on grass!

by Simon Zeitler
Korda on grass court

The grass season is very special, you either like or hate it apparently. While I agree with some tennis fans that the rallies are shorter and less exciting at times, it also creates a completely different style of tennis. And in turn, that supports players, who aren’t in the spotlight for most of the year and gives them a chance to compete. Look at Feliciano Lopez winning the Queens Club title in 2019 for example, as his game was just tailormade for the grass court.

But who are the dark horses and underdogs for the 2024 grass season?

WTA: Time for some home ground victories?

As previously mentioned when talking about Iga Swiatek and the grass, there is one nation that stands out in this part of the year: Great Britain. Home to most of the European grass courts, the country also is home to many specialists on this surface and especially within the WTA, this shows when we get closer to Wimbledon.

No surprise that the first grass tournament in Nottingham was won by Katie Boulter, who only seems to be winning when her boyfriend Alex De Minaur is winning. She defended her title at the WTA 250 event, beating Emma Raducanu in the semis and Karolina Pliskova in the final. With a ranking of 31 in the world, she isn’t really dark horse material, but her chances will certainly rise on grass.

Katie Boulter

Further British players to keep an eye on are US Open champion Emma Raducanu, Heather Watson, who has reached last 16 in Wimbledon in 2022, and finally Harriet Dart. They all are playing their home tournaments in preparation to Wimbledon, last week in Nottingham and this week in Birmingham, facing numerous challengers from around the world. It will be exciting to see how British hopes hold up in this year’s third major, where they will receive a special focus, which can work as a lucky charm or burden.

Other players to look out for are the veteran players, who have a lot more experience from years of play on grass. This gets especially important with the short grass season and packed schedule, which hardly leaves room for young players to catch up their experience. Angelique Kerber is one of these players, who can boast an incredible resume on grass. The 2018 Wimbledon champion and former World No. 1 loves playing on this surface, where her signature low backhand works like a charm and her lefty serve can shine. She will first serve at her home tournaments in Berlin and Bad Homburg.

One other player, who already has reached the Nottingham final is Karolina Pliskova. At 1,86m, she can serve about as good as any player on tour and will surely be a force to be reckoned with. Her movement isn’t quite up with the likes of Swiatek and Gauff anymore, but on a fast and low-bouncing court, she will do some damage.

ATP: Serve bots, lefties or the obvious choices?

On the ATP, it seems that the top players hold a firmer grip on the grass titles. Both Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner feel comfortable on this surface and are the favorites going into Wimbledon, Queens and Halle. But there are some players, who have a playing style that transfers perfectly onto the grass courts, just like Matteo Berrettini, who has been out of contention for months now with injuries and recovery. But his big serve, mighty forehand and decent slice will put him in a good position on grass, where the shorter rallies will also help with his physical condition. Expect Matteo to show up in prime motivation in Queens and Wimbledon, where he scored his biggest success yet with a final appearance.

2022 Boss Open, Matteo Berrettini defeated Andy Murray in the final.

Other big servers, who should be mentioned include the new French prodigy Mpetshi Perricard, serving at 130mph in average, or of course Ben Shelton. Both these players will be hard to break on any surface, but if you give them a slippery grass court on a good day, you can basically start the tie breaker right away. Both have their work cut out in adapting to the grass and finding points on return and at the net, if they want to beat the usual suspects here.

One to add in, even if not a classic serve bot, is American Sebastian Korda, who is a secret favorite for this year’s Wimbledon with many experts. He has been in this position before, so it remains to be seen whether he can live up to the hype this year, but he certainly has all the tools to make it work.

And finally, one group of players to note on our green gold are the lefties. Bear in mind I am left-handed as well, so I might be just a little bit biased here, but a lefty slice serves on grass are nothing short of deadly. And besides the mentioned Ben Shelton, we have a couple of other left-handed players, who have already made their mark on grass.

Jack Draper comes off his maiden title in Stuttgart, is British and surely very comfortable on grass. He has to withstand the same burden as the WTA players from Britain, but certainly seems to be an in-form contender for later rounds at Wimbledon. Alejandro Tabilo or Ugo Humbert could also make strides, if they get used to the grass quick enough. Some of these players will surely provide opportunities to find great odds for Wimbledon this summer.

One more – just hypothetically…

Closing this, I want you to imagine: Take a player, who was up with the Big Three, had all the tools, but struggled with injuries for years now. A fan favorite from Canada, who hardly played a tournament this year. Just imagine if Milos Raonic turned up, served about 200 aces and made a deep run at Wimbledon? Yeah, I don’t see his knee holding up that long either, but I would love to see him have another run here. Or do you have any other ideas?

You may also like

Leave a Comment