The Most Special Two Weeks in Tennis: Grass Court Tennis at Wimbledon 18

The Most Special Two Weeks in Tennis: Grass Court Tennis at Wimbledon

I love grass court tennis.

The beauty of the green green grass offset by the stark white outfits that the All England Club requires. The absence of the sound of the ball bouncing. The long slides of the players as they play on top of the often slippery surface.

The inconsistent bounces that favor the most athletic of our players: Federer, Djokovic, Murray, Dimitrov, Tsonga, Monfils.

The skid of the bounce that can favor the biggest servers:
Isner, Kyrgios, Karlovic, Raonic, Berdych, Cilic, Anderson.

The way the ball slides off the court that favors the lefty cut serves: Nadal, Lopez, Verdasco.

The slippery surface that favors those with the best balance: Nishikori, Wawrinka, Simon.

The speed of the court that favors the biggest hitters: Sock, Mannarino, Querry, Janowic, Johnson, Groth.

The short points, which favor those with the deepest and most enduring mental focus: Novak, Roger, Andy, Rafa. The one’s whose focus rarely breaks in the big moments.

And always the chance for the unseeded player who finds the feel and rhythm that is unlike any other surface: Dolgopolov, Pospisil, Kokkinakis.

On the grass, anything can happen.

When I first started to compete in the seniors, I couldn’t win much. Then I played a tournament at West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills. I had never been on the grass. I walked on it and felt like I was in the back yard where I grew up. It felt like home. I beat players in that first tournament that I know I would not have had a shot against on any other surface. I started to think I could win against good players because I had done it on the grass. That confidence helped me climb the ladder. I had a new story.

I am all about stories. Stories that players are told and tell themselves that don’t work.

And stories that players tell themselves that do work.

At the French, the story was that it was Novak’s tournament. The story was that Nadal couldn’t last, Murray couldn’t beat him, Roger couldn’t win 7 clay court matches in a row and that the new young guns of Nishikori, Dimitrov and Raonic couldn’t keep it together. Oops, the story never included someone else. Wawrinka? Nope, a one-slam wonder. The better story for Djokovic could have been: he competes for each and every point and against all opponents. His story might have been “I never underestimate any player who is across the net from me.”

The press and the fans have stories about every player. It is important that the player has a story going that will give them the best chance to ignite the highest end of their talent and skills. A story that, win or lose the score, they can look in the mirror and say, “I have no regrets. I brought my best.”

What are this year’s stories at Wimbledon?

Novak Djokovic:
The story being told:
The disappointment of losing the finals of the French three weeks ago, ruining his bid for the Grand Slam, may be too much for him to get over. He will be trying to prove something or that he may have had the wind knocked out of his sails.

The better story: I compete for each and every point as if the fate of the Universe depends on my commitment. I play to find my very best, match after match. I welcome all of the adversity that comes with the game. I see every opponent as worthy, never taking any for granted. I always find the way.

Roger Federer
The story being told:
At 33, this may be his last chance to grab another Grand Slam title. He may not be able to recover if he has some tough matches early on. His serve needs to be rock solid as he struggles to break serve.

The better story:
 I play in joy. I have nothing to prove. I love to be on the court, Centre Court more than any other. I play to show my children who I am. I play to be a model for all that follow. My efficiency enables me to show up each day fresh. Nobody is as familiar with the nuances of the grass as me.
I always find the answers.

Andy Murray:
The story being told:
Winning one Wimbledon satisfied the Brits for only one year. They are impatient with him for not winning another. Djokovic has owned him in 12 of their last 13 matches and he will need to go through Novak to win the title. He gets too upset with himself. His fitness is questionable.

The better story:
 Although I compete for myself, I draw massive amounts of emotional energy from the British crowds. They push and encourage me. I love to play in front of them. My athletics on the grass, my variety of shots and styles, my consistency and my movement all create huge problems for anybody I play. More than a player who beats people, I am a difficult opponent for others to win points against. I revel making others have to hit multiple winners to win any point. My fitness is never a question for me. I am tough on myself and it drives me to deeper levels of focus and drive.

Rafa Nadal:

The story being told:
He has lost a lot. His confidence is not high enough to finish off opponents as he used to. He is missing too many routine shots. His body may not hold up if he has to work too hard to win points.

The better story:
Nobody competes like me. Ever. In history. I fight for every shot, whatever the score, whoever the opponent, every round. I never quit. Whenever I win a point, I believe that, at that moment, I am winning. Nobody can convince me otherwise. I am every opponent’s nightmare. I will give nothing away. Period. End of story.

Stan Wawrinka:
The story being told:

He can’t adapt his baseline slugging style to the quicker lawns. He will struggle with the higher bounces and not enough time to set up. He is at a disadvantage if he can’t strike early in the point. It is going to be tough for him to contend after such a big moment in his career.

The better story:
I am on the greatest high of my career. I believe in myself. Right now I can play at my best on any surface against any opponent. I am a master of adapting. In many ways I don’t even have to adapt because I just rip when I am ready. My opponents struggle to deal with my pace. The tatoo on his arm says: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better.” My mission between the lines and in my life. I am fearless.

The Rest of the Field That Has a Shot: Berdych, Nishikori, Raonic, Simon, Dimitrov, Tsonga, Cilic.

The story being told:
One of them would need to maintain a level of play over two weeks with no drop off. This is too hard for them when the top guys are still around. Raonic would need to hold serve every time. Nishikori would need to stay healthy and hold his nerve in the biggest moments. Berdych needs to move above his normal. Dimitrov, more than any other, would need to hold his level even. Simon, Tsonga and Cilic are all possible of a run but will find it tough to beat two of the top three in a row. Each of these guys could win it but they would need to have two of the top guys play bad matches against them.

The better story:
This is for all of them. I ask myself before each point, “can I compete with the guy on the other side of the net for this one point?” I always answer yes.

Super dark horses. Anderson, Lopez, Isner, Kyrgios, Sock, Seppi, Troicki
The story being told:
No chance for these guys.

The better story:
The game is full of upsets. Why not me? I belong on the court with any player who plays the game. I only need to win one point at a time.

My pick: Roger Federer

Okay so I am always picking him. Why not? 

He brings a grace and class to this game I love so much.

Let the matches begin.

Leave a comment

18 thoughts on “The Most Special Two Weeks in Tennis: Grass Court Tennis at Wimbledon