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Grass is for Cows! No?

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TENNIS – After the Roland Garros, the grass court season get’s underway and our GPTCA International coach, Mike James, explains the particular training needed to play on grass.

 

Oh yes that famous headline from a former ATP tour player ten years ago.

Since that famous quote things have changed during an interesting month on the ATP Tour.

In this article I shall take you through my findings from working and being around players competing on grass courts in the UK and witnessing first hand differences that make grass such a touch surface for any player in the modern game.

Grass court tennis requires the most short-term concentration because the average rally length is shorter than other surfaces. Players have to be totally focussed to handle the speed of the ball in shorter bursts. A sudden loss of concentration may cause two or three loose errors and result in a service break.

The basic mental approach on grass courts should be to dominate the opponent and dictate the tempo of the points. Being reactive to the opponent’s shots does not get you very far on fast courts.

One of the most difficult challenges for players who for the best part of the season compete and train on slow courts is understanding and accepting that they will make many more errors than normal. There will also be a feeling that it is difficult to establish a consistent rally tempo. Learning to accept these conditions and deal with them is part of playing on grass courts. Remember that both players tolerance level will become lower than normal with more cheap points making a presence.

Overall, the scores of sets are usually considerably closer on grass courts due to the fact that there are less service breaks. As such, the player must be able to play the big point well towards the end of sets and tie-breaks.

Seeing the ball well, and fast reaction and response times are great assets. Combined with good anticipation skills, these elements allow the player to use the fast court to his advantage.

Dynamic balance is at a premium since all the movements must be performed quickly and efficiently. Having an affective explosive strong first step is key with a much lower centre of gravity. Focusing on the bottom half of the body is more important in this physical phase than strength work around the chest and shoulders.

During the grass court season, be sure that players maintain their level of endurance with off-court training since there will be less aerobic benefit from the tennis itself. Players must be ready and accept they will often make fairly jerky and uncomfortable movements .

Having a great serving is an obvious asset on a grass court although with the grass being longer and the balls being lighter you now see far less aces being hit at Wimbledon. Strong servers like Isner and Del Potro often win over 80% of the points on first serve. Good placement, combined with sheer power, will reap many dividends. Slice serves are very effective on grass courts.

The return of serve in men’s tennis on grass courts is vital, the average number of balls per point is less than two in matches involving big servers. The serve and missed returns account for a huge number of points. Returning first serves with reasonable consistency and effectiveness, and taking advantage of second serve opportunities are what set up service breaks.

The ability to load quickly and make compact strokes like Murrey or Djokovic is important with the ball coming quick off the court.

Players standing close to the baseline allows the player to dictate the tempo of the points. Developing the timing to use the opponent’s pace to block the ball back, often offensively, is very beneficial.

Offensive slice backhands can be deadly, while slow defensively hit slice will have little effect and tend to sit up. Driving through the ball, sometimes with even a bit of sidespin, puts more pressure on the opponent

Effective volleyer’s are in their element on grass courts. Serve and volley tends to be used as a surprise tactic compered to 15/20 years ago. In the modern game you tend to see “Hit and Charge” approach or ghosting in after the serve. This is where the serve delays coming in until they see the returner in trouble and often drive volley the approach.

The ability to anticipate and maintain a strong court position is key. Specialty shots such as half volleys, backhand overheads and a variety of emergency volleys are very important and often keep the net-player in the points. Emergency volleys would include situations where the player is stretching or diving for the ball: or handling a ball hit very hard at the body.

Overall having a weapon and fantastic concentration are key in today grass court circuit, this makes for a very open interesting part to the ATP tour.

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Anett Kontaveit beats Petra Martic to reach the final in Palermo

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World number 22 Anett Kontaveit from Estonia upset number 1 seed Petra Martic 6-2 6-4 to reach the final at the Ladies Open in Palermo. 

 

Martic has scored her third win in her seven matches against top 20 players after beating Belinda Bencic and Elina Svitolina. 

Kontaveit avenged her defeat against Martic in their only previous match played in Dubai last February before the lockdown. 

Kontaveit had to fight to hold her serve in the first game of the opening set at deuce and took control of the match by breaking in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead. 

Martic won only 56% on her first serve in the opening set. Kontaveit came back from 0-30 down to hold serve in the seventh game before breaking for the second time in the eighth game to win the first set 6-2. 

Martic earned an early break in the first game of the second set at deuce, but Kontaveit broke straight back to draw level to 1-1. The Estonian player saved a break point before holding serve to take a 2-1 lead. Kontaveit saved five of the six break points she faced. Kontaveit broke for the second time in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead. Martic held serve at 2-5 down before breaking serve at 15 in the ninth game to claw her way back to 4-5. The Croatian player received a medical time-out before Kontaveit for the third time in the tenth game at love to close out the second set 6-4. 

Kontaveit will chase her second title in tomorrow’s final three years after winning in S’Hertogenbosch in 2017.

“I felt like I played a very good match today. I was quite aggressive, consistent, and I served especially well in the first set. It got a bit close in the end, but I played a good game at 5-4 and I am happy to be in the final”, said Kontaveit. 

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Petra Martic comes back from one set down to beat Ludmila Samsonova in Palermo

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Top seed Petra Martic from Croatia came back from one set down to beat qualifier and world number 117  Ludmila Samsonova 5-7 6-4 6-2. 

 

Martic saved six break points in the 10th game of the opening set, but Samsonova converted her third break point in the 12th game to win the first set 7-5. 

Martic earned an early break in the first game to open up a 2-0 lead. Samsonova broke back at love in the eighth game to draw level to 4-4. Martic broke for the second time in the ninth game to win the second set 6-4. The Croatian player broke twice in the third and seventh games to close out the third set 6-2. 

Martic will face world number 50 Aliaksandra Sasnovich from Belarus in the quarter finals. Sasnovich came through the qualifying round before beating Jasmine Paolini in straight sets. 

Former top 30 Camila Giorgi rallied from losing the first set to beat Slovenian teenager Kaja Juvan 3-6 6-2 6-4 after 2 hours reaching her second WTA quarter final of the season. Before the outbreak of the Covid-19 outbreak Giorgi reached the top 8 in Lyon. Juvan qualified for the Main Draw at the Australian Open and beat five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in three sets at the Abierto Mexicano in Acapulco. 

Giorgi started with an early break at deuce at the start of the first set and opened a 2-0 lead. Juvan broke twice to take a 4-3 lead. Giorgi dropped serve for the third time after a double fault on the set point. 

Giorgi came back from 1-2 down by winning five consecutive games with two consecutive breaks in the fifth and seventh games. 

Giorgi broke twice to race out to a 3-0 lead at the start of the third set. Juvan pulled one break back at love in the fourth game but Giorgi got another break to race out to a 5-1 lead. Juvan broke at 30, when Giorgi was serving for the match at 5-2. The Italian player earned two match points and sealed the win on her second chance. 

“I think I was more solid in playing my game. I was moving more forward, so it was much for me. At the start of the match, I was making too many tactical mistakes because I was trying to finish points for no reason. I started to adopt better tactics in the second set and that’s when things started working for me”, said Giorgi. 

Number 4 seed Anett Kontaveit from Estonia came back from one set down to beat Laura Siegemund 3-6 6-2 6-2 after 2 hours and 20 minutes booking her spot in the quarter finals at the Palermo Ladies Open. 

The Estonian player has reached her third quarter final this year after the Australian Open and Dubai. 

Kontaveit set up a quarter final against Elisabetta Cocciaretto, who became the youngest Italian player to reach the quarter final of a tournament since Sara Errani in 2006. 

“I am quite happy about the way I was handling close situations, playing the close games and turning the close games around. I thought I actually handled that sort of pressure, that I didn’t think I would be used to, quite well”, said Kontaveit. 

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Andrea Gaudenzi recognizes the contribution of the Italian Tennis Federation in staging the Internazionali d’Italia

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ATP President and former Italian tennis player Andrea Gaudenzi spoke in an interview to Italian TV channel Supertennis about staging the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome before the French Open and recognised the contribution of the Italian tennis Federation (FIT) in staging the tournament in the Italian capital. 

 

The Rome ATP Masters 1000 and WTA Premier 5 tournaments will be held from 20th to 27th September one week before the French Open (27th September to 11th October). 

“We are grateful to everyone, holding an event this year is difficult from an organizational and financial point of view. We thank the Italian Federation and those who organize the Challengers. Italy is making a great contribution. I think the players are waiting for the BNL Internazionali d’Italia. The Foro Italico is among the most beautiful venues in the world. Rome is splendid in September”, said Gaudenzi. 

During his tennis career Gaudenzi scored wins over Roger Federer in Rome 2002, Pete Sampras in the first round of the 2002 French Open, Jim Courier in the 1994 US Open, Goran Ivanisevic, Thomas Muster, Michael Stich and Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Gaudenzi claimed three ATP titles in Casablanca in 1998, St. Poelten and Bastad in 2002. He graduated in law at the Bologna University and obtained a MBA with Honours at IUM.

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