Tennis is unique in that players compete on different surfaces during a regular season. The four Grand Slams are played on grass, clay and hard courts and each of these are better suited to certain players capable of using the unique characteristics of the surface and their own abilities to dominate their opponents. Punters with a FanDuel bonus code can use this knowledge to back players more likely to win on a particular surface, whether it’s at Wimbledon, the US Open or a standard ATP tournament.
King of Clay
Rafa Nadal is the best clay court player in the history of the game having won a record twelve French Open titles. The Spaniard won his first Grand Slam at Roland Garros in 2005 and has lifted the ‘Coupe des Mousquetaires’ almost every year since then. In 15 years in fact, Nadal has lost only twice in Paris with the surprise fourth round defeat to Robin Soderling in 2009 and a quarter final loss to Novak Djokovic six years later being the only blemishes on a staggering 91-2 all-time record.
Nadal is equally adept on hard and grass courts (he has Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open titles) but the ‘Matador’ is most at home on the clay courts that he grew up playing on in Mallorca. While his formative years on the surface helped to hone his craft, clay is best-suited to the high top-spin, powerful forehand that is central to Nadal’s game.
In contrast to grass, the fastest surface, clay is slowest. This means the ball holds up slightly after it has bounced, which allows Rafa to position himself for a powerful forehand to the open court almost every time. Nadal is able to generate a huge amount of spin with this shot, making it more difficult for opponents to attack with their own forehands or backhands.
The slower surface also plays into his excellent ball retrieving skills and general athleticism. Nadal is considered one of the greatest ever defenders and fighters in tennis history. He is capable of trading blows for long periods and moving to the net to retrieve drop shots with ease. All of these factors allow Nadal to dominate a surface like no other player has ever done or is likely to do again.
Federer at Wimbledon
Roger Federer is almost as dominant a force as Rafa on the grass of Wimbledon. Since defeating Mark Philopoussis to clinch his first-ever Grand Slam at WS19 in 2003, the Swiss star has won eight Wimbledon titles, the latest coming in 2017 following a routine 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Marin Cilic.
Federer displayed all of the skills that have made him arguably the greatest player ever in the run to the final that year.
While Nadal thrives on slower clay where defensive styles really work, he does not find it quite as easy to play his natural game on grass. That is because it’s a faster surface where the ball loses little speed after hitting the ground, which requires swift movement and faster reactions to keep pace during a rally.
The grass courts are very suited to big servers due to the speed of the surface. Players that rarely make it to the latter stages elsewhere can make an impact at Wimbledon. American Sam Querrey, for example, who is 6ft 6in and has a huge serve, made the semi-finals in 2017 while his best performance at the Australian Open is a third round loss.
While Federer is not as tall as some of the fastest servers, he is incredibly powerful and accurate from the baseline and is able to dominate rallies with his backhand due to the low angle that the ball bounces on the surface. His light footwork and creative shot play also sets him apart from the rest.
Novak on hard courts
Along with Nadal and Federer, Novak Djokovic is another contender for the greatest tennis player of all time. The Serbian has won Grand Slams on every surface, but he is at his imperious best on hard courts where he has 11 out of his 17 titles including a record eight at the Australian Open.
Djokovic is well suited to hard courts as he is the best returner of serve in the game and can follow it up with a consistent and powerful baseline game. Like Nadal, he also has incredible athleticism that allows him to retrieve balls that many other tennis players would struggle with.
While sport is always unpredictable and shock wins and surprise defeats will always happen, tennis players with attributes that align with a particular surface stand a better chance of performing well on that surface in the long term. This knowledge can help punters to make informed decisions during the biggest tournaments.