It may be the quintessentially British surface, conjuring up images of boater and sideburn-wearing Edwardians in long trousers, but playing on grass is now a rare treat for many amateur players in the UK.
Grass courts are few and far between, expensive and often have a waiting list longer than the strawberries and cream queue at Wimbledon. Moreover, even if you’re lucky enough to have one nearby, you can be easily undone by the slippery surface and low, skidding balls.
Here at Tennis Talent we’ve put together a list of tips that will help you adapt your game and make the most of your precious time on the green stuff.
1. Be cautious
Like clay courts, grass can be very slippery, increasing the risk of developing groin strain or a sprained ankle. This means that, instead of bounding into a shot as you can on hard courts, you should take a few small steps to ensure you get into position in enough time, without overstretching. You can invest in specialist footwear, such as the Nike Air Zoom Ultrafly Grass and Babolat Propulse Grass, which use “pimples” to stabilise your feet and help you get off the mark more quickly.
2. Adapt your swing
On grass, the ball skitters off the ground at a relatively low angle and can travel a long way before bouncing again. To prepare yourself, you should bend your knees and maintain a low centre of gravity. When the ball approaches, keep your racket low to the ground and begin your swing early.
3. Focus on your serve and volley
It’s no secret that professional players who rely on their serve and volley tend to prosper on grass. This is because a strong, well-aimed service – combined with the unpredictability of the bounce – will force your opponent into a hurried return, leaving you to kill off the point at the net. It may sound harsh, but aiming at your opponent’s body is particularly effective, especially if the grass if uneven and patchy.
4. Slice and slice again
Slicing is perhaps the top tactical tip for playing on grass – it makes the surface do the hard work for you. Considering that normal balls hardly bounce in the first place, sliced shots barely get any height at all. Concentrate on adding slice to your serves, volleys and drop shots. The latter are almost unreturnable if dropped into the soft front half of the service box, one of the least-used areas of the court.
Here’s a physics-defying drop shot from Andy Murray to show you the way:
5. Kill the point
The average men’s rally on grass is a miserly four strokes. This means a momentary lapse of concentration could be the deciding factor. To ensure this doesn’t happen, try to kill of the point as quickly as possible with a sliced drop shot or a hard forehand down the line.
Now read our tips for playing on clay.
Image: Leon Brocard on Flickr