You know it’s time for a grass court preview when seeds like Nick Kyrgios and Matteo Berrettini return to the draws. Just three whirlwind weeks warm us up for Wimbledon on July 3.

Lost in all the celebration over Novak Djokovic’s historic 23rd Grand Slam victory at Roland Garros? Andy Murray won a challenger on grass. Easily.

Keep in mind, where topspin is weaponized on clay, slice becomes even more deadly on grass. The best grass court players have a well-developed slice that can be used not only to defend but as a chess move to put their opponent in an area of the court where they desire.

Three categories of players typically emerge this time of year: Suited to grass, not suited to grass but will play anyway, and we just don’t know, but we’re curious.

Below is a list of players in each category.

Andy Murray and Players Who Love Grass Court Tennis

Murray made the strategic decision to rest his body rather than grind through the clay of Roland Garros. If a match is best of 3 sets, Andy will play them. If it’s best of five, Andy will play them. That’s been the tendency late in his career. He got a jump start on grass. As the sentimental favorite, I expect a decent if not great run at Wimbledon this year.

Newly crowned world number one Novak Djokovic is a brilliant grass court player with an 86% win percentage on the surface. As returning champ, he will look to tie Roger Federer’s record of eight Wimbledon titles.

Two players who have dealt with injuries and off-the-court distractions are former Wimbledon finalists Kyrgios and Berrettini. It might be a challenge to put down the phone, stay off social and lock down on tennis in just 3 weeks. One of the two of them will turn in a solid grass season, but chances are, not both.

On the women’s side, she’s the white hot darling of the tennis world right now, and I think Karolina Muchova’s big serve, beautiful slice and sensational volley game make her a natural pick to win on grass.

Other men’s and women’s players who love grass:
Hubert Hurkacz
Elena Rybakina
Grigor Dimitrov
Ons Jabeur
Coco Gauff

Casper Ruud and Players Who Don’t Love Grass but Play Anyway

Because Wimbledon, that’s why. The beauty and cache of this iconic Grand Slam is like nothing else in the world. Ruud will take a very short grass carpet ride before heading straight back to clay after Wimbledon. The 3-time Grand Slam finalist is an amazing all-around player and mover, but if he doesn’t buy into grass, he won’t succeed.

Stefanos Tsitsipas also has just a 16-11 career record on grass, likely because of his underdeveloped slice. It certainly isn’t because he lacks a serve or volley skills. But if you’re tempted to be bullish on Stef’s chances, consider that he’s in a new relationship, which can be a drain on mental energy in the beginning. Similarly, Paula Badosa, coming off injury would be a risky pick to win Wimbledon.

Other men’s and women’s players who don’t love grass:
Francisco Cerundolo
Jelena Ostapenko
Jan-Lennard Struff
Anhelina Kalinina

We Don’t Know, But We’re Curious How They’ll Do on Grass

Young superstars Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune fit this category perfectly. These guys are really all-court, all stroke, all surface players but haven’t had much exposure to grass in their young lives. Results in grass-court tournaments so far have shown they aren’t naturals like Federer and Nadal were.

Since she missed last year’s grass season, I would put Aryna Sabalenka in this category. She’s certainly got the serve for grass, but what about the finesse?

The world number one Iga Swiatek is capable of anything, but her big wind-up on her forehand might need to be shortened on grass. She exited Wimbledon in the third round last year.

Andrey Rublev, with his fast, hard strokes has a solid 65% winning percentage on grass. It’ll be fascinating to see how he and his fellow Russians perform after a year away.

Daniil Medvedev has a 66% winning percentage on grass compared with 75% on hard court. That’s probably because he’s less comfortable at the net. But I put him in the “don’t know” category. He’s proven he can win on any surface if he’s motivated. He might have gotten a jump on grass after being booted from Roland Garros in the first round. Let’s watch Meddy.

It’s always a mind-melt to go from red to green as we shift from clay to grass, but the crispness and the allure of this natural surface only enhances the fun.


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