Can lawn tennis players play cricket

Alex Antonitsch's little lawn lexicon

Alex Antonitsch looks ahead to the lawn classic at Wimbledon. The preview, part 1.

last edit: Jun 17, 2010, 3:58 pm

Ten days ago, Rafael Nadal received the French Open victory cup on the Parisian sand, and now the big lawn highlight is imminent: the third Grand Slam tournament of the tennis season at Wimbledon. Nowadays the players can only play one or two preparation tournaments, after which the classic in Newport is on the program with the Hall of Fame of Tennis on Rhode Island.

The preparation: Jürgen like Roger
Everyone has their own access to Wimbledon: Some only arrive the day before, play the next day and see what is going on - as a rule, these are clay court specialists who hardly win anything on grass anyway. The best professional preparation looks like what Jürgen Melzer did this year - or Roger Federer has been doing it for years: first an acclimatization tournament, then an early arrival to Wimbledon and training with top sparring partners or exhibitions on site.

The best place in the world: Queen's Club
The best grass pitch in the world is the center court in London's Queen’s Club. The greenkeeper there also helps in Holland and Newport. The places are very special, and they are not used as much as over two weeks at Wimbledon. There I wonder what the effect of the fact that the Wimbledon center court has been covered since last year. In Halle I have the feeling that the quality of the seats will suffer a lot.

Heavier balls, higher bounce: the game becomes more athletic
At Wimbledon, the courts have not only been covered for years, but also blow-dried underneath so that they always stay dry, so they stay harder, which of course makes the ball bounce a little higher. For serve and volley players it would of course be better if the lawn were a little juicier. But classic serve-and-volley players no longer exist today.

The game in general has been slowed down years ago, due to the higher ball bounce and above all because the balls were made heavier and thus slower - not only in terms of weight, but also due to a thicker felt.

In the past, classic lawn tennis was consistent serve-and-volley on the first and second serve. Today you don't always go online after the first serve, and hardly ever after the second serve. The game has become much more athletic. Players who still play real serve-and-volley or who have a classic volley are virtually extinct.

The best lawn volley? Short and poisonous
One thing is clear: serve and return are by far the most important strokes on grass. Volley has lost a lot of its importance in recent years, although players with a good attack ball and volley can still exert enormous pressure. Incidentally, a supposedly short attack ball or volley is usually played deliberately, a volley is best played away briefly on grass. That makes it hardest for the opponent when he has to go forward and bend his knees.

Roger's talent, Jürgen's strengths: What makes them strong on grass
Roger Federer is naturally at home on every surface and is the most talented player of all. He can particularly show his qualities as an all-rounder here. Jürgen Melzer is also predestined for playing on grass: he is left-handed, has flat, straight strokes, his slice, his volley, he can move on the net and move up. And you also have to have a hand and be able to improvise - all of this makes a good lawn player.

A real endurance test for the head
It is always dangerous on grass that you get far fewer chances than on sand and hard courts. So the big points count even more than usual. You only get one chance or the other against service giants like Ivo Karlovic or Robin Söderling - and you have to use them. Lawn tennis is a real game for the head, a matter of self-confidence. With breakball, the ball can suddenly jump or even roll away for the opponent. You have to come to terms with such peculiarities first.

Lawn tennis: my most expensive hobby ...
My personal experiences with the green are different. The fact that I once had my own lawn in Annenheim in Carinthia can confidently be described as my most expensive hobby. That was the biggest minus I've ever made. Something like that simply cannot be done for normal consumers. Back then, as a player, there was only one surface that suited me more: the Supreme Court, a kind of plastic floor with a very flat bounce.

... and my strongest rubber
Of course, grass with my grips and play area was ideal for me. Even the forehand, which wasn't exactly my greatest strength, was okay, because the ball went away very flat, as was my backhand slice. My serve was never extremely fast, but I had a lot of variations, served precisely and always built up for the volley. It's funny that I only served my fastest serve with 209 km / h on the Seniors Tour in Graz. This also shows how much the material has developed.

Curious: troughs as a target to serve
It was also funny when I came to Roehampton, where the Wimbledon qualification and an ITF junior tournament are still played today. At first I thought it could only be a joke that the lines were drawn on a cricket field - you could use the grass field in the southern part of the city right away. I always took a close look at it and thought to myself, "Yes, I could reinserve in the hollow." If it works according to Stefan Koubek's stories, everything hasn't gotten much better until today.

I usually played well on grass, and to this day I'm still the only Austrian who made it to the round of 16 at Wimbledon. However, I'm pretty sure that will change this year. But there is more about that in my personal Wimbledon preview on the chances of the Austrians ...