With Wimbledon 2023 nearly upon us, we attempt to unpick the question on everybody’s lips: What does it take to win Wimbledon?
Wimbledon is a wholly unique tennis tournament. The grass that makes up the courts presents a challenge unlike any other in the sport. The ball travels faster and stays lower than any other surface, and these contributing factors perhaps make Wimbledon the hardest place to play tennis.
On grass there is no-where to hide…
Player’s techniques are thoroughly examined and there is no room for error.
While Wimbledon and the way it is played may have changed over the years, the fundamentals of what makes a player successful there remains consistent.
One of the most crucial factors for a player to win Wimbledon, for a long time, was the presence of a strong serve.
Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras, all possessed a major weapon in the form of their serves, and would sometimes fly through service games with a number of aces.
The speed of the courts made it difficult for players to return a strong serve, and it became a pivotal weapon for many players.
Whist the reliance on a big serve at Wimbledon may have waned in recent years, Champions like Djokovic and Nadal had to severely improve their serves before being able to compete for titles.
Even over the last few years, the runs to the final of Milos Raonic, Marin Cilic, Kevin Anderson and Nick Kyrgios, have all demonstrated that a big serve can take you a long way at Wimbledon.
Aside from strawberries and cream, there has perhaps never been a more iconic Wimbledon pairing than the serve and volley.
For years, players would combat the difficult bounce at Wimbledon by preventing the ball from bouncing at all.
John McEnroe would come into the net after every serve and his elite serving and the follow-up volley became akin to a boxer’s one-two punch combination.
Bjorn Borg is one of Wimbledon’s most successful champions, and was one of the pioneers for baseline play at the tournament, but even he had to improve his volleys before he was able to win at Wimbledon.
Much like the need for a big serve, volleying’s importance at Wimbledon has decreased over the years, but it still serves as a good way to win easy points against players like Djokovic.
Return of serve and consistency
In recent years, it seems that a player’s return of serve and their ability to stay in a point for as long as possible has been the main weapon at Wimbledon.
There is something to be made of the fact that all the players who have dominated Wimbledon over the last few years, Federer, Murray and Djokovic, are fantastic returners of serve. Especially Djokovic and Murray, who are perhaps the best returners of all time.
A player’s ability to return serve effectively has become more of a weapon than the serve itself, which is embodied by Djokovic’s play style.
It is not just the return of serve, but a player’s all-round consistency that is crucial to Wimbledon success; the players who are able to remain in a point for as long as possible will have a lot of success at the tournament.
No holes allowed
It is no coincidence that over that last 20 years, only the ‘big four’ have won Wimbledon. Grass is perhaps the purest of the tennis surfaces. Its speed and low bounce will constantly test a player’s technique and doesn’t allow for any weakness in a player’s game.
While the other surfaces, such as clay, give a player more time to perhaps run around a shot that is not their strongest, grass gives no such luxury.
A player must be proficient in all areas on their ground stroke game if they are to succeed.
So, who are the players to look out for?
Of the current crop of young players who fit this mould, Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz look the most likely to succeed. Taylor Fritz and Hubert Hurkacz have shown potential on grass as well, and could be players to look out for.
But the undeniable favourite for the tournament will be Djokovic. The seven-time champ will be looking to equal Federer’s record of eight at this year’s Wimbledon and there will be very few who can stop him.
Djokovic’s relentless pressure and consistency make him a nightmare on grass and it will take something very special for him to be stopped.
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