A grass court is one of the four different types of court on which the sport of tennis, originally known as "lawn tennis", is played. Grass courts are made of grasses in different compositions depending on the tournament.
Although grass courts are more traditional than other types of tennis courts, maintenance costs of grass courts are higher than those of hard courts and clay courts. Grass courts (in the absence of suitable covers) must be left for the day if rain appears, as the grass becomes very slippery when wet.
Grass courts are most common in Britain, although the Northeastern United States also has some private grass courts.
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Because grass courts tend to be slippery, the ball often skids and bounces low while retaining most of its speed, rarely rising above knee height. In addition, there are often bad bounces. As a result, players must reach the ball faster relative to other surfaces, and rallies are likely to be comparatively brief; therefore, speed and power is rewarded on grass. On grass, the serve and return play a major part in determining the outcome of the point, increasing the importance of serving effectively, and maintaining focus in exchanges which can be heavily influenced by lapses in concentration.
Most grass courts heavily favour those employing a serve and volley tactic, proponents of which are aggressive and willing to sacrifice points to secure more winners overall. This approach requires that practitioners finish the points off quickly, and allow the ball to bounce as little as possible on their side of the net. Serve and volley players take advantage of the surface by serving the ball (usually a slice serve because of its effectiveness on grass), and then running to the net to cut off the return of serve, leaving their opponent with little time to reach the low-bouncing, fast-moving ball. To utilise the tactic successfully, it is important for players to move in quickly after the serve or the short/mid-court ball, and win the point with a volley or overhead smash. On grass, players attempt to hit flatter shots as a means of increasing power, conserving forward momentum beyond the bounce.
Movement on grass courts is somewhat different from movement on any other surface. The slipperiness which characterises grass surfaces demands the utilisation of small adjustment steps to reach a suitable position from which to play shots. Players will lower their centre of gravity to get down to the low or bad bounce. Compared to harder surfaces, playing on grass is easier on the knees. Grass cannot be slid upon in the manner of clay; however, it is not uncommon for a player to slip in an attempt to slide or rush after a ball. Capable grass court players tend to also succeed on hard courts, although there are some exceptions.
By the end of a tournament, grass courts (for example Wimbledon) can have large areas entirely devoid of grass, its having been degraded by use. Those areas in essence become clay courts. This adds to the unpredictably or at least the need to choose shots carefully.
Among the most successful players in the open era have been Pete Sampras, Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Björn Borg, Roger Federer, Venus Williams, Serena Williams and Billie Jean King. All have won at least 5 Wimbledon singles championships; Navratilova won 9, while Sampras, Graf, and Federer each won seven. Other players who have been relatively successful at Wimbledon are Boris Becker, John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg and Chris Evert. Pete Sampras is lauded by many tennis analysts as the greatest grass-court player of all time. He has won 7 Wimbledon singles titles in 8 years from 1993 through 2000 losing for the only time in between in 1996 quarter finals. The most successful male player currently is Roger Federer, a seven-time Wimbledon singles champion. His variety in the shots, speed, footwork, and slices, are his biggest weapons. Before being beaten in 2008 at Wimbledon by Rafael Nadal, Federer had a 65-match winning streak on grass, and 40 consecutive wins at Wimbledon alone. The most successful female players currently playing are Venus Williams and her sister Serena Williams, both with five Wimbledon singles titles. The former has won five out of her eight Wimbledon finals appearances (losing the remaining three to her sister Serena Williams) and achieving five titles in the ladies' doubles.
A grass-court specialist is a tennis player who excels on grass courts but does not perform to the same standard on hard courts, clay courts or other surfaces. The term is generally only applied to professional players on the ATP and WTA tours, rather than to average players.
A common feature of grass court specialists is their ability to serve and volley. A serve-and-volley player is at a distinct advantage on a grass court because his or her service is quickened enough to force the receiver to handle it quite defensively rather than aggressively, as can be the case on a slower surface. Their effectiveness at the net is therefore greatly improved. Grass court specialists are in direct contrast to clay court specialists, and the two differing styles (and players) generally do poorly on the other surface.
Some examples of prominent past and present players who are frequently referred to as grass court specialists are Pat Cash and Tim Henman. While rarely referred to as grass court specialists, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras, Serena and Venus Williams, Jana Novotná, Andy Roddick, Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt have all had their best results on grass.
Professional tournaments played on grass
The professional grass court season is comparatively short. Until 2014 it consisted only of Wimbledon, two weeks of tournaments in Britain and continental Europe leading up to it, and the Hall of Fame Championships in the United States the week after. From 2015 it is to be extended, with an extra week between the French Open and Wimbledon. The Stuttgart Open became a grass court tournament in 2015, and Mallorca will host a grass court tournament beginning in 2016.
Summer grass season
|Week 1||Stuttgart Open (Stuttgart, Germany)||Nottingham Open (Nottingham, United Kingdom)|
|Rosmalen Grass Court Championships ('s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands)|
|Week 2||Halle Open (Halle, Germany)
Queen's Club Championships (London, United Kingdom)
|Birmingham Classic (Birmingham, United Kingdom)|
|Week 3||Nottingham Open (Nottingham, United Kingdom)||Eastbourne International (Eastbourne, United Kingdom)|
|Week 4||Wimbledon (London, United Kingdom)|
|Week 6||Hall of Fame Tennis Championships (Newport, United States)||none|
- "The grass is the star at Wimbledon and this year’s Olympic tennis matches". The Washington Post. July 4, 2012.
- "Stuttgart To Make Switch To Grass Courts In 2015". ATP. March 29, 2013.
- "WTA To Head To Mallorca In 2016". WTA. June 9, 2014.