All about the Strike Zone

Why do players such as Stan Wawrinka or Kei Nishikori succeed on clay or hard-court but falter on grass?

It’s often about strike zone.

Some guys like it high, others low.

Wawrinka, Nishikori and other aggressive baseliners like how clay pushes the ball up higher into their strike zone. But they have trouble generating power or accuracy off low balls skidding on grass.

Wawrinka has won every slam but Wimbledon, and he lost in the first round this year after reaching the French Open final. Despite his success elsewhere, Air Kei has never vaulted past the fourth round at Wimbledon.



Their opponents slice them into errors, especially in the first week when the grass is relatively fresh and high. Nishikori had trouble with Sergiy Stakhovsky’s low slicers into his backhand side, where he’d rather smack a hard flat winner.

Many clay courters also lack the can-opener slicer serves to take advantage of the grass. Rafael Nadal likes the ball up high too, but his slice serve wide into the ad court has been enough to disarm Roger Federer and others at Wimbledon.

Federer’s game is tailor-made for success on grass. He loves the slice serve out wide in the deuce court or down the middle in the ad court. His floating, fizzing, slicing returns take the oomph out of big servers forced to stoop low for their second shot. Federer himself excels at taking low balls to either side and flicking them for approach shots or winners. And his volleys, especially from the backhand side, die in the grass or skid through to the green walls of the All England club.

Andy Murray meanwhile has great enough hands and feel to deal with balls high or low. His slice serve — perhaps his most underrated shot — is deadly on grass. He’s also developed a sickening slice backhand. Djokovic, with extraordinary balance and flexibility, can defend wings and return balls not only out of his strike zone but beyond the reach of most players.

As Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray have proven throughout their careers, success at Wimbledon is all about strike zone.



(words and images copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media, all rights reserved)