Grass courts present new challenges


The grass is slower and the bounces higher, but knowing how to play on the surface still counts for something these days. A few players consistently do well at Wimbledon, while others do not have the results their rankings might suggest. Here's a look at who has the best grass-court records on tour.

He may no longer be No. 1, but Roger Federer still leads the field on grass. He has 14 titles on the surface and a winning percentage of 87.4 percent, the best in the Open era. With seven Wimbledon titles -- more than the rest of the tour combined -- he's going to be hard for the others to catch in this category. On the court, Federer is no longer as far ahead of everyone else, but this is still the surface on which he is the most effective.

The names that follow are also familiar. The Big Four are the top four, as usual, but not in their usual order. Behind Federer is defending Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, with a winning percentage on grass of 83.1 percent. That shows how well the 27-year-old has carried national expectations season after season, with a Wimbledon title, a final, the Olympics and frequent runs at his usual lead-up tournament at Queen's Club. His serve and counterpunching game get a little extra weight from the grass, which also accentuates his variety on his groundstrokes. The local support doesn't hurt, either.

Murray observes the change in surface has a big effect. "A lot of people try to say that the surfaces, they are all very similar now, but from a player's perspective, there is a huge difference between playing clay-court and grass-court tennis. The movement is totally different," he said. According to ladbrokes, Murray is a 3/1 favorite, second behind Novak Djokovic. Federer, for what it's worth, was given a 6/1 odds to win.

Next is Rafael Nadal, who would be higher than 78.1 percent except that he hasn't won a match on grass courts since 2012. Before that, he consistently contended for the title, playing with a more offensive approach than he does elsewhere. But though his record is strong compared to the rest of the field, his winning percentage on grass is still less than his overall record of 83 percent, which is an Open era best. It's the same with Djokovic, whose No. 4 position reflects his overall strength as a player rather than any specific grass-court prowess. But it should be noted Djokovic was granted the top seed when Wimbledon begins next Monday.

Following the Big Four, there is a more unexpected name at No. 5, Lleyton Hewitt. It has been 12 years since he won the title, but the 33-year-old Hewitt has still won 76.6 percent of his matches on grass, and these days -- like Federer -- he performs better on this surface than anywhere else. Though he fell in the first round of Queen's to another grass-court aficionado, Feliciano Lopez, Hewitt knows how to prepare and will be one of the unseeded floaters in the draw.

"Some practice sets over the next week and a half and just get more and more comfortable with the grass," Hewitt said. "Then over five sets, anything can happen."

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