One of the most iconic elements at Wimbledon is the grass playing surface on each tennis court. This feature makes it unique among the four grand slams. Grass has been used since Wimbledon debuted in 1877. It developed as a playing surface in the late 18th century and was used for all grand slams, except the French Open, until the early 1970s.
Tennis played on grass has several nuances to it that are different than tennis played on clay courts or hard courts.
These are 10 things you can expect from playing on grass tennis courts:
1. Slippery when wet
When grass becomes even moderately wet, it becomes slippery. That's one reason why lengthy rain delays are part of Wimbledon each year. Slippery grass can be a hazard for players trying to chase down balls all over the court and one wrong turn or step can mean a serious injury.
2. Unpredictable bounces
A tennis ball will bounce low and fast on grass. As a result, players are forced to reach a ball faster compared to other surfaces. Bad bounces can derail players who lack speed and power compared to their opponent.
3. Serve and volley
A player who can serve and volley well is rewarded on grass. It is a surface that requires finishing off points quickly and allowing the ball to bounce as little as possible. Service is quickened enough to put an opponent on the defensive while trying to return a serve, opening a window to smash a volley back at them and win a point.
4. Flatter shots
Hitting flatter shots on grass helps produce more power in each shot. A flatter shot conserves and limits forward momentum beyond the initial bounce, forcing an opponent to work harder to return it.
5. Fancy footwork
The slippery nature of grass requires a player to use smaller strides while changing direction and getting in the right position to play shots. Larger strides can result in overplaying a shot and losing a point.
6. Topspin limited
A player who relies on a good topspin can excel on clay courts or hard courts. On grass courts, it is more difficult for him or her to get going because low bounces make it more difficult to get under a ball to execute a topspin. Hitting the ball in the air is easier to do because of the unpredictable bounces.7. Get lower
You will see players lower their center of gravity on grass more than any other surface. Playing low to the ground helps a player compensate for low or bad bounces by putting them closer to the ball and giving them a chance to speed up their reaction time.
8. Shorter points
Playing grass results in shorter points because of the serve and volley style of play that usually prevails. A series of shorter points also means less running and it reduces wear and tear on a player's knees and feet.
9. Serve it well
Service is even more crucial on grass than other surfaces because returning a serve is typically more difficult. A player who boasts a powerful serve can rack up plenty of aces on grass courts and their ability to serve will determine the outcome of many points.
10. Changing surface
Grass is a living plant and it does wear down through continual use. The grass courts at Wimbledon develop bare spots across the baseline during the course of the tournament. Those exposed bare spots can make ball bounces even more unpredictable than just grass alone.
John Coon has covered tennis at all levels as a sports reporter based in Salt Lake City. Coon was raised in a tennis loving family. All three of his sisters played competitively and Coon himself enjoys playing at a recreational level.
- Sports & Recreation