Dan Weston

The Cloudbet Blog, with the help of Dan Weston (@tennisratings), looks at some long-term tournament trends and historical grass performance levels for the main contenders.

Whites pressed, strawberries and cream - and perhaps a tipple of Pimm’s - at the ready. Yes, one of the crown jewels of the British sporting summer is here: Wimbledon - the third Grand Slam of the tennis season at the home of grass-court tennis.

In 2020, the grass season never happened, and the tournament wasn’t played - so any grass data is now getting pretty old and in many cases, particularly as it relates to those players who have exhibited either a rapid improvement or decline since 2019, is close to unusable. 

What’s more, some players don’t even have a grass sample to speak of - Barbora Krejcikova, recent French Open winner, has not played a main tour, main draw match on grass in her entire career. 

However, there is plenty that we can ascertain from historical data with regards to tournament conditions. For example, the table below illustrates some venue data for the Wimbledon men’s tournament in recent years.

These numbers give really useful insight into the likely conditions of Wimbledon. We can see that  the Service points won percentage centres around the 66% mark, while the Aces per game count is fairly stable at around the 0.60 mark. These numbers are virtually identical to the grass court average figure for the ATP Tour from 2018 onwards, suggesting that Wimbledon is likely to be around medium-paced for a grass court. 

A medium-paced grass court, however, would be markedly quicker than any other surface, and so  that must be taken into account when evaluating matches. Particularly in the men’s event, expect  tight sets, tight matches, tiebreaks and fine margins, which can increase volatility and potentially  create shock results. 

While some historical grass player data can be taken with a proverbial pinch of salt, some is still quite relevant - particularly looking at the elite players on tour. The chart below shows the three-year grass numbers for the main contenders for the men’s singles title.

The reason why this chart is so useful is because it suitably illustrates the task at hand for the  upcoming players on tour - the likes of Berrettini, Rublev, Tsitsipas and Medvedev - to usurp the  elite duo of Djokovic and Federer.

Given that there were no grass events last season, it would be logical to assume that these younger players are capable of demonstrating surface improvement along with their continued career progress - but the extent of that improvement is difficult to quantify in advance.

The same analysis of the contenders for the women’s singles title has some use, but also has similar caveats.

The likes of Iga Swiatek, Bianca Andreescu, Cori Gauff and Amanda Anisimova, as young players with high potential, will likely exhibit a dramatic improvement from these longer-term grass court numbers, but the chart does show the level that they will have to reach to challenge the better grass-courters of recent years - Petra Kvitova, Serena Williams and Ash Barty.  

General market pricing has the latter two at the forefront of the outright markets, with Kvitova  among the next tier of players, so in advance of the tournament there’s still plenty of faith in those  players who have been able to demonstrate clear grass court ability in the past. 

Will the historically successful grass-courters - the big names at the top of the rankings - perform well, ensuring that the return of the tournament means business as usual, or will some of the young players with high potential  show that there are plenty of players capable of challenging those elite big names? 

The dynamics above make for a fascinating two weeks at SW19. 

Jun 28, 2021

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