Lack of grass courts specialists
This is nothing new in modern tennis terms, but it does appear that the slow but unremitting death of serve and volley and the sheer lack of experience on the surface has rendered grass courts an anathema in both the men’s and women’s tours. There are exceptions, but Roger Federer is almost 36 and players such as Gail Monfils and Dustin Brown although brilliant to watch, don’t have tournament winning quality and thus the title more often than not ends in the hands of players who favour alternative surfaces.
Within the women’s game, aside from Serena Williams, Petra Kvitova is a stand out name having won two Wimbledon titles since the turn of the decade and will hopefully regain her status as a regular contender following the traumatic year she has suffered. Other players who were tipped to be successful on the surface, such as Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska, but women’s tennis hasn’t had a grass court trailblazer like Federer since 2000 (Williams is just a trailblazer on any surface).
What does the future hold for grass court tennis? It has been reported in certain papers that players feel the balls are slower this year than previously, thereby closing the gap between grass and the other playing surfaces. Additionally, without an increased number of grass court tournaments on tour (Rosmalen, Queens and Halle being some of the few), the cycle will continue with upcoming players developing on hard and clay courts without learning acquiring the skill set suited for grass.
Openness of the women’s draw
One of the most exciting things about this year’s Wimbledon is the openness of the women’s draw. With Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova not competing and Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka still adjusting to rejoining the tour, the door is open for a whole new raft of hopeful to stake their claims this year. Of those, Jelena Ostapenko may fancy her chances having won the French Open although I believe the draw favours the likes of Garbine Muguruza and Dominika Cibulkova. Every year throws up its surprises but with Angelique Kerber having struggled this season and Simona Halep still trying to master the mental part of her game, the next champion could be a true dark horse.
What of Jo Konta? She successfully navigated her first round tie against Su-Wei Hsieh (who she lost to at the same stage at this year’s French Open) and is up against the relatively unknown Croatian Donna Vekic in the Second Round. Konta should dispatch the world number 57, but if she manages to get past the third round she’ll likely meet Kvitova early next week and recovering or not, Kvitova knows what it takes at Wimbledon.
The resurgence of Rafa Nadal
In his heyday, Nadal was a ferocious competitor, able to play Roger Federer of the court on grass! But his extremely physical style of play took a major strain on his body and his last three Wimbledon appearances have been uninspiring with the fourth round marking his furthest progression. But, he has achieved two grand slam finals this year for the first time since 2014 winning the French and put on a bravura display to dispatch Australia’s John Millman yesterday 6-1, 6-3, 6-2. It appears that the Majorcan has rediscovered his game this season at a time when his other competitors are waning. For all those who believe that Roger Federer will win this year’s men’s competition (as indicated by a BBC poll), it would not be a surprise to see Nadal lifting his third Wimbledon title on this form.