Top 5 Men’s Grass Court Players in The Open Era
Tennis was earlier known as lawn tennis, and played exclusively on grass courts. Wimbledon, the only Slam held on grass today, continues to be the most royal and prestigious of all tennis tournaments.
However, not too many tournaments are held on grass these days, and there are very few grass court specialists remaining in the circuit. Apart from Wimbledon, the Queen’s Club tournament and Halle Open are the only other Considered tennis tournaments played on grass these days.
Grass courts are a lot faster than hard courts or clay courts, and also produce a bit of variable bounce. Rallies are usually much faster on grass courts, and players with big serves and good volleying skills tend to do well on this surface.
The sport has produced some finest grass court players over the decades. Here, we take a look at the top 5 men’s grass court Players in the Open Era:
5. Boris Becker
Boris Becker was the pin-up boy of tennis and one of the most popular global sports persons in the 1980s. With his blonde hair, thighs like tree-trunks and a lightning quick serve, Becker Won Wimbledon in 1985 at the tender age of 17.
The German became an instant fan favorite with his acrobatic volleys and great athleticism on the court. He again won the Big W in 1986, and managed to reach the Wimbledon final seven times in his career.
Becker won his third successive Wimbledon crown in 1989 and and he failed to clear the final hurdle as he reached the final five times in six years from 1985 to 1990. He could not win Wimbledon even once in the 1990s though, as Pete Sampras was in his absolute prime throughout that decade.
Becker also formed a great rivalry with Swede Stefan Edberg during the 1980s and 1990s.Becker dominated Edberg in the head-to-head statistics, but things were a lot closer in the Grand Slams.
Becker had a very potent single-handed backhand, but his forehand was inconsistent. Becker’s had the quick serve but he lacked the return serves.
Becker had a winning ratio of 82.3% on grass courts, and won seven Major honours on the surface.He played in a very aggressive era of tennis and remains the greatest male tennis player Germany has produced.
4. John McEnroe
There have been very few tennis players as talented and temperamental as John McEnroe. He defied the norms with his antics on the court, but enthralled the audience with his brilliant serve-and-volley game.
McEnroe was a left-handed player and possessed arguably the greatest volley of all time. His net-skills were even good enough to keep a legendary baseliner like Bjorn Borg at bay occasionally.
McEnroe lost an epic Wimbledon final against Borg in 1980 and could not stop the latter from winning 5 Wimbledon titles in a row. However, he won his maiden Wimbledon title in 1981 by beating Borg. He also demolished Jimmy Connors in the 1984 Wimbledon final, eventually finishing with three titles on the hallowed grass courts of London.
McEnroe was the best grass-courter of his generation and dominated contemporaries like Connors and Ivan Lendl on that surface. He had a winning ratio of 85.8% on grass and managed to win eight career titles on it.
Bjorn Borg won five consecutive Wimbledon titles from 1976 to 1980 – not bad for someone who was a strict baseliner and played better on clay.
Borg’s record has not been bettered yet, and the mercurial Swede could have added to his tally had he not retired at the very young age of 27. He was one of the coolest players of all time and almost always won the psychological battle with his opponent in the court.
Borg had a good serve and decent volleying skills for a baseliner, and used to hit a lot of winners on grass. He also made very few unforced errors and waited for his opponents to commit mistakes.
Borg bettered John McEnroe in an epic 5-setter in the Wimbledon final of 1980. He made it to his 6th straight final in 1981, but lost to his American rival.
Borg won six career titles on grass and also had a winning ratio of 84.7% on it. His early retirement left tennis poorer in the early 1980s.
2. Roger Federer
Roger Federer is widely acknowledged as the greatest tennis player of all time, and grass remains his most preferred surface. He has won eight Wimbledon titles till date, the most by any player in history.
Federer burst onto the tennis scene with his memorable victory over the legendary Pete Sampras in the 2001 Wimbledon fourth round. He hasn’t look back since, going on to win 20 Grand Slams – the highest by any male tennis player.
Federer is not a typical serve-and-volley player, and plays primarily from the baseline. However, his net skills are quite good, and he is capable of winning points with volleys. He also has a wonderful forehand and a very decent single-handed backhand.
Federer won five consecutive Wimbledon titles from 2003 to 2007. He played two epic Wimbledon finals – in 2007 and 2008 – against arch-rival Rafael Nadal. Federer beat Nadal in 2007, but Nadal took revenge in the following year.
1. Pete Sampras
There has never been a better grass-court player than Pete Sampras. Sampras’ serve remains the greatest shot in the history of the game, and his volleying skills were pretty special too. He could hit magnificent crosscourt forehands and sumptuous backhand slices. His court coverage was very good and he possessed the intensity of a true champion.
Sampras dominated the proceedings at Wimbledon throughout the 1990s, and won seven titles in eight years from 1993 to 2000. He lost the 1996 quarterfinal against Richard Krajicek, but remains one of the few players to win four consecutive titles at the Big W.
Sampras beat fellow greats like Andre Agassi, Boris Becker and Jim Courier on grass regularly to build an unmatched legacy on it.