The pace of the courts at Wimbledon forces players to shorten their strokes. Whether off the return or in a rally, it’s crucial to be able to reduce the length of one’s swing path on groundstrokes.
Player Example: Dominic Thiem
Thiem is known for having longer strokes, which are more suited to clay. The slower surface provides Thiem with sufficient time to get his racket around to the ball without being late. On grass, as players pressure him with low-lying, swift shots, Thiem will have to reduce the size of his swings. If not, he will be at the mercy of his opponents and will be stuck well behind the baseline playing unsustainable amounts of defense.
Serve & Volley and Compact Volleys
Moving forward on grass can provide players a unique tactic most of their opponents are not able to handle. Whether off an approach shot or a serve and volley, the reality is that most professional tennis players are not accustomed to seeing their opponents try to end points at the net.
The two most common errors players at every level make on their volleys: They volley down and create too long of a motion. On a faster playing court, it’s easier to use your opponent’s pace while hitting volleys. The majority of your pace on a volley stems from the pace of the incoming ball.
Player Example: Roger Federer
Federer is thought to have outstanding technique on his volleys. While his forehand volley is flat and compact, his backhand volley is often hit down and with a much lengthier motion. The degree of difficulty involved in executing this shot is insanely high, even for Federer. For every degree he swings down, Federer has to open his racket face to a matching degree, in order to compensate. Many professional tennis players hit their backhand volleys in this fashion, and as a result, it is arguably the weakest shot on tour.
A lot of tennis coaches are keen on teaching their players how to play “modern tennis.” Modern tennis is characterized by a heightened level of open-stance shots and angular body rotation. They teach this in contrast with the way they believe “classic tennis” was played, with more linear strokes and linear body momentum through the ball.
Higher-bouncing balls with heightened levels of spin have necessitated that players hit out of an open stance more often. More spin has caused more players to hit with more extreme grips.
The most successful players will be able to play shots out of all stances.
At Wimbledon, look out for the players who are willing to step into the court to take the ball earlier (easier to do on grass), and for the players willing to approach the net with neutral-stance forehands.
Player Example: Roger Federer
Federer hits out of a neural stance a lot more than most. He’s able to take the ball off the rise with more effectiveness and he can get closer to the net while doing so.
Players intending to be aggressive on grass, especially players who attempt to get to the net, should be keen on hitting more balls out of a neutral stance.
This is an obvious choice on grass.
The way an underspin or slice backhand is hit is as follows: The player swings from low to high with a racket face that is very slightly open at the contact point. The low-to-high motion produces the backspin, while the open racket face allows the ball to clear the net.
Due to the downward motion of the racket and the slight opening of the racket face, underspin keeps the ball low. The low trajectory on an already low-bouncing surface makes handling underspin even more difficult.
It is also highly useful as an approach shot since it forces the opponent to hit up, making for an easier-to-hit volley.
Player Example: Monica Niculescu
If you want to take a look at one of the most unique shots in tennis history and a fine example of how effective an underspin backhand can be on grass, check out Niculescu‘s forehand.
No player in the draw will uncork bottles of champagne if she sees Niculescu on the other side of the net. Niculescu will create a very tough first-round match for Naomi Osaka.