Roger Federer: Wimbledon's Grass Gives Fed-Ex Advantage Against Novak Djokovic
Roger Federer has had a prolific career at Wimbledon, dominating its grass surface with six titles between 2003 and 2009. He is yet to face Novak Djokovic on grass, but Wimbledon's unique surface will equalize what has become a lopsided competition between two of tennis' top players.
Federer has an overall edge on Djokovic, 14-12. They have each won five matches against the other in Grand Slam matches.
However, Djokovic has been clearly better in recent seasons. Since the start of 2011, Djoker has a 6-1 edge. His only loss was in the 2011 French Open semifinals.
Grass courts are normally faster and more slick than hard surfaces. They give players with a big serve and the ability to serve-and-volley a distinct advantage.
However, Wimbledon is not a traditional grass surface.
Following the 2001 championships, organizers installed 100 percent perennial rye grass over a harder, more dense soil. The surface had been a 70/30 mix of rye and creeping red fescue.
The result was higher bounces and a slower surface, thus negating the competitive advantage players like Djokovic take onto the court.
The change in play was quick and obvious. Rather, it was slow and methodical.
In 2001, Goran Ivanisevic and Pat Rafter combined for 38 service aces in the finals. They used a traditional fast-court tactic of heading to the net to volley.
The year following the change there were only seven serving aces and no volley points.
Baseline specialist Lleyton Hewitt beat David Nalbandian in the 2002 finals and sent notice that things had changed at Wimbledon.
Tim Henman also noticed the change. England's star serve-and-volley player was the host-nation's best chance at placing a countryman in the finals since 1938.
He stated in a Time Magazine article, "I remember sitting at a change-over in 2002 in utter frustration and thinking 'What on earth is going on here? I'm on a grass court and it's the slowest court I've played on this year.'"
Wimbledon's change to baseline players certainly favors Federer, who is one of the best in tennis.
Djokovic is also great on the baseline, but his advantage comes from his power and firing the ball down the line. The increased hop and reduced speed on Wimbledon's grass negates this advantage.
Federer won't be favored in the match, but Djokovic no longer has an obvious advantage. Should the two meet in the semifinals it will be a hard-fought contest.
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