Rafael Nadal is probably going through one of the best phases in his career – after being down and out with injury, he has bounced back in terrific fashion to win his 10th French Open title. That said, Nadal would know that Wimbledon is a different cup of tea altogether.
“Since I have had problems with my knee, since 2012, playing on grass has been very complicated for me. We’ll see how my knee behaves. Playing on grass is very special. You need to play at a lower level. The body posture is down. You have less stability,” Nadal told Reuters.
Traditionally, people who do well at the French Open don’t usually do well on grass. Last year, Andy Murray’s victory was an exception – he won the title, after reaching the Roland Garros finals. In 2008 and 2010, Nadal achieved the double by winning both titles. Roger Federer did it in 2009, when he won his solitary French Open title. Bjorn Borg did it for three consecutive years in 1978, 1979 and 1980. Rod Laver did it in 1962 and 1969, but besides these four players, no one has been able to do a double.
It’s a very rare and difficult thing to achieve. Pete Sampras, the greatest grass court player after Roger Federer, only managed to reach the semi-finals in 1996. Even among lower ranked players – clay court specialists don’t do that well on grass, and vice-versa.
Scientifically, there’s a difference in how the ball behaves in grass courts and clay courts. In grass court, the ball doesn’t lose a lot of speed after bouncing, but it does on clay courts. Also, the ball stays lower when it bounces on grass as compared to clay. Another factor that comes into play on clay, is the players sliding to hit the ball. This does not happen on grass. That is why players who’ve spent a long time on clay, have trouble adjusting to grass. Part of the reason for this is also because there is very little time in between the two Grand Slams. This year, the French Open finished on 11 June, and Wimbledon started on 3 July.
For Nadal, there will be a huge mental block owing to the fact that four of his last performances have been terrible. The bad run started in 2012, when he was knocked out by World No. 100 Lukas Rosol in the second round. In 2013, he suffered another upset and lost to World No. 135 Steve Darcis in the first round itself. In 2014, Nadal was performing a little better than the last two years, but his run was cut short by World No. 144 Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round. In 2015, it was déjà vu for Nadal, as he got beaten by World No. 102 in the second round.
Despite these results, bookies are considering Nadal as one of the favourites to win Wimbledon. But, if you ask us, it’s better to put one’s money on Roger Federer or Andy Murray. Even Novak Djokovic who is having a horrible 2017, is a better bet.