Paris to SW19: Large modifications in double fast time

Carlos Alcaraz, the US Open champion who cleans up properly on the crimson grime, introduced out his rising really feel for the grass throughout an attention-grabbing level in his Queen’s semi-final. After a chipped forehand return, he took a number of little steps to his proper for a forehand, then a number of little steps to his left for an additional. As Sebastian Korda put a defensive backhand again in play, Alcaraz took a number of little steps contained in the baseline and pulled out a forehand winner putting under the waist.

There’s extra diving than sliding on the inexperienced.(REUTERS)

Brief, fast and exact — the purpose was pretty much as good because the Spaniard’s toes motion. In a sport that romanticises the fantastic thing about the serve, the facility from the baseline and the contact on the internet, the work of the palms has a robust hook up with the circulation of the toes. “Tennis is commonly misunderstood as solely a hand recreation. It is the farthest factor from that,” Somdev Devvarman, India’s former world No. 62 pro, says. “Movement cannot be your weakness anymore.”

Especially, on grass. Especially, with Wimbledon on the horizon, the dust from the clay barely having settled. Especially, since the tricky clay-to-grass transition has a lot to do with adjustment in footwork. “A lot changes,” Devvarman says. “Footwork on grass has changed dramatically over the last few years, because people are winning Wimbledon from the baseline now. However, even along the baseline, footwork is vastly different mainly because the ball flies different and the kind of shots you’re trying to hit are different.”

There are two key elements to that change going from clay to grass. A. Staying low, because the bounce on the ball is lower and speed greater than the bouncier and heavier clay courts. B. Taking smaller steps to get into positions on court, because the natural green offers lesser grip.

“Staying low is the first thing on grass to feel comfortable in the movement,” Devvarman says. “You have to adjust your body to those different positions, which would be completely opposite to what you would do on clay.”

The same goes for on-court movement, which requires shorter and swifter steps — especially moving laterally — and plenty of footwork drills to adapt from the grinding, sliding and stretching clay swing. “You have to make sure that you take smaller steps to get into positions, that your last step is powerful and, at the same time, you’re not overstretching it because that’s when you can slip,” Devvarman says.

Lack of grip on the floor makes altering course that a lot harder, whereas there’s extra diving than sliding on the inexperienced. “That is where you have to be precise with your footwork, especially when you’re running to a ball wide and then recovering to get back,” Devvarman says.

That can be the place on-court positioning turns into one other key image of distinction. As a result of the balls journey loads faster, the gap between the participant’s toes and the baseline must be loads nearer. Returning serve standing method again behind the baseline may now be a typical sight throughout clay and laborious courts, however would nonetheless be a dangerous proposition on grass.

“You will have much less time to return a serve; you’ll be able to’t stand method behind and take an enormous swing. The ball is not as heavy, and whether it is, the bounce kills it on the grass,” Devvarman says. “What might be a great defensive shot on clay would be a horrible shot on grass. And changing that again comes down to a few footwork things: return of serve positions, how to get out of the corners, which balls to go in, how to keep your body position more on the attack when you’re moving forward.”

Sliding is a prerequisite for that on clay. Long considered a no-go ploy on grass, modern-day tennis players aren’t averse to carrying that into increasingly slower grass courts. Indeed, Daniil Medvedev has slid and slipped on clay and grass alike. “In some ways, it is an evolution of the game with the grass getting slower and the rallies longer. In some ways, it is also where people are falling short in terms of movement,” Devvarman says.

From his personal expertise, Devvarman “hated enjoying on grass”, as a result of “for a guy who felt like he could always get that extra ball back on hard or clay courts to steal a point, it was that much harder to do on grass”.

What escalates the challenge is the short turnaround between the Grand Slams on clay and grass. Only three weeks separate the French Open and Wimbledon this year. The ATP calendar comprised 11 tournaments on clay starting from April leading into the French Open in May-June. On grass, it has six events, all squeezed together in a three-week window ahead of Wimbledon after which the Tour moves to the hard stuff again. All those modifications in footwork and approach, therefore, have to be done in double quick time.

“Lack of preparation time is the big challenge. Because the grass season is so short, players find it hard to adapt their game just for that six-week window,” Devvarman says. “And that is why very few players are specialists on grass in today’s game.”

And that’s the reason this Wimbledon, leaving apart Novak Djokovic, is a wide-open Slam. For, the likes of Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, Alcaraz and Medvedev, all in-form Slam champions throughout laborious and clay courts, are nonetheless discovering their toes—actually and figuratively—on grass.

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