2011 Wimbledon: Grass Court Tennis Is Dead

Gregory LanzenbergCorrespondent IJune 15, 2011

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 16:   StrathAyr staff complete finishing touches on the grass court to be used for the Davis Cup Final at Melbourne Park, on November 16, 2003 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)
Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

What would be the current standings if the ATP had a full grass court season?

Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray would still be the top four players in the world, but it remains to be seen where players such as Söderling, Ferrer, Berdych and Roddick would stand.

We have to remember that, while the game of tennis may have started on grass, today the ATP and WTA calendar has five weeks of tennis on grass during the whole season: Queen's, Halle, Birmingham, S-Hertogenbosh, Eastbourne, Wimbledon, and Newport.

Tennis on grass has become as rare as seeing a grass root on the back side of the Wimbledon tennis courts at the end of the second week of the event.

It wasn't that long ago that three of the four majors were played on grass: the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Only Roland Garros has managed to always stick to the clay.

When the Australian Open organisers decided to move from Kooyong to Flinders Park in 1987, which nine years later became Melbourne Park, they knew they had to have a hard court due to the extreme costs of a grass court.

At the time, players would also think twice before making the long trip to Australia, which was the second reason for them to change the surface and make it a surface for all type of play.

The U.S. Open was also played on grass until 1974 at Forest Hills, before switching to green clay for three years and then moving to Flushing Meadows' hard courts in 1978.

The grass, which was the number one tennis surface until 1987, has almost become a second division surface, which is a shame in my opinion.

Tennis is so interesting precisely because it can be played on at least four different surfaces in a calendar year.

The media managers would argue that tennis is only interesting on hard court because it's a surface which suites all styles.

I believe that clay court tennis and grass court tennis are 180° opposite to one another, which is the most fascinating. It's by playing regularly on clay and grass that players can produce a specific style of play.

Elsewhere, I'm not sure about the argument that the grass court of Wimbledon has almost become a clay court. It's true that it's much slower than it was even ten years ago.

However, it is still a fast court surface. Chances of seeing Juan Ignacia Chela or Nicolas Almagro in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon are very slim.

The transition process between clay and grass should take at least four weeks, while the debate over having just two weeks between Roland Garros and Wimbledon has been going on since the McEnroe-Borg era.

Why are there five Masters 1000 events, which are mandatory events for the top 20 players, played on hard courts and none on grass? A prestigious tournament such as Queen's has a Masters 1000 field but only gives 250 points to the winner, which is crazy.

Maybe it's not easy for the governing bodies of tennis to do such a thing, but it's vital to do so for the health of players and tennis in general.

Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray would have love to have a one-week break between Roland Garros and Queen's, but the grass calendar is such that both had to play in order to have some grass sensations before Wimbledon.

On the other hand, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic pulled out of the Wimbledon warm-ups and will not have played a single match before the grass court major, which is a big problem for the sponsorship of a tournament, who had to promote both players in order to sell more tickets.
Federer and Djokovic are great champions, and will find a way to find their rhythm at Wimbledon, but it's another example to prove one more time that things are not perfect in the tennis world.