11:30am, July 15th 2018- watched by several million people, Serb tennis legend Novak Djokovic has just defeated 6-foot-8 Kevin Anderson on the most renowned grass court in the world. Novak is no stranger to victory, especially in slam tournaments, but there is something special about this win… This is not only the culmination of a phenomenal comeback after being absent from the tour for 6 months following elbow surgery but Wimbledon, as Djokovic explains, is a “sacred place for tennis” and holding this ultimate classic tournament’s trophy, three times now, was beyond his wildest dreams.
Wimbledon: how do the world’s greatest tennis players prepare to excel on grass court?
2 July 2019
Since 1884, the best male and female tennis players in the world meet at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon for arguably the most famous tennis tournament in the world. Over the years, the white dress code, the customary strawberries and cream as well as Royal family appearances have consistently given Wimbledon its British class and its charm. But it has also evolved to produce some of the best tennis we have seen over the past few years. While many tennis legends such as Pete Sampras, Steffi Graff or Bjorn Borg have stepped onto the Wimbledon courts in the past, today’s champions demonstrate a whole new level of inspiration, preparation, and commitment to their sport.
Natural picks for this year are the usual suspects in the men with Swiss star Roger Federer, last year’s winner Novak Djokovic and Spanish giant Rafael Nadal all hard to see past. In the ladies, leading contenders are fronted by Serena Williams and the one who defeated her last year, German champion Angelique Kerber. However, the hundreds of other professional tennis players will not be deterred and will enter the court this Monday with one thought in their mind: upsetting the odds and winning that trophy.
As they put on their pristine white sports kit in the locker room, they won’t be thinking about injury, about a bad streak they’ve had, or how their opponent has a better ranking. The clarity of mind that the best players will experience will come from a methodical, well planned and focused preparation giving them full control and ownership of their upcoming performance.
For Spanish champion and winner of the 2019 French Open Rafael Nadal, the planning is even more critical in allowing him to focus and perform consistently following a recent injury. Nadal explained in an interview with Fox Sports last Monday the cause of his recent challenges: ” After many months without playing on grass the first day, I had a muscular overload because the grass is a little more unstable. So we decided to stop and continue with the training on both Wednesday and Thursday normally.” There is no doubt however that the Spaniard knows the importance of sticking diligently to the plan crafted by himself and his trusted team. Sticking to the plan and focusing on adapting his game to be best placed for the famous grass surface will make sure he is on top of his game.
Indeed, the historic lawn tennis courts are a critical factor for every player with them being considered to be the second fastest-playing surface of the grand slams after hardcourts. “Playing on the grass of Wimbledon after playing on clay is the most radical transition there is in tennis.”, added Rafael Nadal in his interview with Fox Sports. Grass courts are the oldest type of courts: the balls react in a very unique way on this surface. Bounces are lower and quicker, making it more difficult for players to reach the ball in time. The so called “living surface” not only gets wet quite often (becoming even faster and more slippery) but also evolves every day as the tournament goes.
37-year-olds Roger Federer and Feliciano López have claimed the last two grass court ATP tournaments leading up to Wimbledon, showing younger players how it’s done. Coming into next week’s tournament, there is no way to predict who will be lifting the Golden Trophy and waving to the crowd from the winners’ balcony. The one thing we can be sure about is that this person, in each category, will exemplify the determination, perseverance and preparation tennis players need to succeed in this new era of elite sports performance.