Now the sun has set on the French Open for another year, the tennis season turns to the grass courts, with Wimbledon just round the corner.
I’ve never played on grass but it’s something I would love to try.
I like to use serve and volley when I can, as I’m a better net player than at the baseline, and over the years we’ve seen some superb serve and volley players at Wimbledon.
It’s a technique which has a strong association with playing on grass, and although it’s not as popular as it once was, there are still some players who use it; Federer uses it occasionally and Dustin Brown uses it almost all of the time.
I thought for this blog post, I’d take a look at some of the greatest grass court players of all time. I’ve picked 5 female and 5 male players (in no particular order)
Do you agree with my list?
Please leave any comments at the end of the article.
Greatest Male Grass Court Players
There are a lot of similarities between Bjorn Borg and Rafael Nadal.
Both utterly dominant on the clay, dictating rallies from the baseline, they also achieved a lot on the grass too.
But it is the Swede who achieved more in terms of titles.
He won Wimbledon for 5 straight years from 1976 to 1980, until he lost to McEnroe in 1981. What’s even more staggering is that he retired at just 26.
Imagine how many more titles he could have won?
There’s a strong argument that he could have chalked up a few more Wimbledon titles, beating Federer’s current record of eight.
Known for his intense fighting spirit (and a few tantrums here and there), McEnroe’s rivalry with Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors was a fantastic spectacle. He possessed a unique serving style which made it very hard for his opponents to read.
As a grass court player, he won Wimbledon 3 times and has an impressive win rate on the surface. McEnroe was also an accomplished doubles player winning at Wimbledon 5 times. He formed a formidable partnership with Peter Fleming.
In my opinion, Pistol Pete possessed the greatest serve of all time. He was also an awesome net player, and this combination of effective serves and volleys really helped him achieve great things on the grass.
He won Wimbledon 7 times and holds and impressive record on the grass, winning 101 times in his career and only losing 20.
Is Roger Federer the greatest grass court player of all time?
At the moment, with 8 Wimbledon titles to his name, it would be hard to disagree with this statement. He was utterly dominant on the surface between 2003 – 2007, winning 5 times in a row. In fact it was only when Rafael Nadal appeared on the scene that he was truly tested and pushed to the limit.
Like Sampras, Federer possesses an effective serve and great net play. Furthermore, he has arguably one of the best forehands ever, along with his backhand slice.
In fact, you could argue he is the most complete tennis player of all time.
However, you do wonder if Sampras hadn’t retired so early, could Pistol Pete have won 8 or even 9 Wimbledon titles?
I guess we’ll never know.
You could argue for the past 15 years, we’ve witnessed the highest standard of men’s tennis we’ve ever seen. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have been so dominant for so long now, and we’re still waiting to see who can break through and challenge this trio.
Novak Djokovic is a superb all round tennis player. He’s arguably one of the best returners of all time (along with Agassi) and he possesses a formidable 2 handed backhand. He’s a superb athlete with an amazing work ethic who just seems to get everything back.
He’s also great at wearing his opponents down. Djokovic has won Wimbledon 4 times, and he may win more in the future.
Best Female Grass Court Players
Serena Williams has been one of the most dominant female tennis players of all time. She has amazing power on both wings, along with a formidable serve. She’s won Wimbledon 7 times and most of her opponents really struggle to deal with her power, especially on the quick grass surface.
Will she win an 8th title? Time’s against her, but it’s still possible.
Between Venus and her sister, the Williams’ were utterly dominant at Wimbledon from 2000 – 2016.
Venus also possesses huge power like her sister, but Serena has a stronger game overall.
Nevertheless, Venus has won Wimbledon an impressive 5 times. She might have pushed her sister closer in other years, but she’s struggled with injuries.
Furthermore, let’s not forget how effective she and her sister are as a doubles pairing.
They’ve won Wimbledon 6 times!
Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King holds the record for the number of titles at Wimbledon in the open era.
She’s won the tournament 20 times; 6 as a singles player, 10 in women’s doubles and 4 in mixed doubles.
Bille Jean had an incredible mental toughness and resolve as a tennis player. In terms of her tennis game, she was an excellent serve and volley player and possessed a great backhand.
Back when I first started watching tennis on TV, I remember seeing Steffi Graf dominate women’s tennis on the grass courts of Wimbledon.
She won the tournament 7 times, but she also holds impressive wins at the other Grand Slams aswell.
Steffi had an incredible forehand, accompanied with an effective slice backhand.
As a singles player, Martina Navratilova currently holds the record for the number of wins at Wimbledon. She’s won the tournament 9 times, winning 6 consecutive titles between 1982–1987.
Like other great grass court tennis players, Martina had a good serve and she’s arguably one of the best volleyers in tennis history.
Like Bjorg, Nadal has been able to transition his dominant clay court game to the grass. He’s won Wimbledon 2 times, and he could have won more if not for his injuries and playing in an era featuring 2 of the greatest players of all time; Federer and Djokovic.
Winning Wimbledon at just the age of 17 is still one of the greatest achievements of the open era. Becker had an effective serve and volley game which was suited to the grass court. He had a good rivalry with Stefan Edberg in the late 1980s.