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WHY AUSSIES PLAY WELL ON GRASS



Tennis’ oldest and most prestigious tournament has entered the 2nd week. The last event of the grass-court swing. 


Wimbledon. 


It is a tournament that Aussies have historically thrived at, with 33 singles champions and countless doubles champions stretching from 1907 until 2022. 


And that is still the case today, with Nick Krygios as our most recent singles finalist in 2022 and Ash Barty our most recent singles champion in 2021. 


Then of course, there are the 2022 doubles champions, Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell, who staged an epic comeback from two sets to one down.


Recently, both Alex De Minaur and Rinky Hijikata admitted that Aussies generally play well on grass and there’s very few players who don’t enjoy the grass court swing.


So why do Aussies always play well on grass?


Well, the most obvious answer is that we used to have a grass court grand slam in our backyard, before the Australian Open moved to Melbourne Park and switched to hard court in 1988.


Dominating our home slam until the switch to hard courts, Australians also fared extremely well at Wimbledon, particularly in the ‘50s and ‘60s.


Great champions like Lew Hoad, Roy Emerson and of course, Rod Laver, all won multiple Wimbledon titles in that time.


Sure, that was then but what about now?



While the Australian Open is now played on hard courts, there are still relics of Australia’s long and proud grass-court traditions.


Case in point, there are over 170 Tennis Australia-affiliated clubs and venues with grass courts across Australia.


Australia also held the world’s biggest grass-court event in Albury-Wodonga this year.


Country Week, run every year in February, featured 1320 players across a whopping 101 grass courts at this year’s event.


These grass court tournaments start from a young age, with Hijikata suggesting that Aussies are “manufactured” to suit grass, in terms of their playing styles.


“We used to have a 12s Nationals every year in Australia, it was in Mildura. That was actually the first national title I won,” Hijikata told ATPTour.com last year at the Surbiton Challenger.


This is evidenced in how Australians typically play the game: fast, aggressive and with lots of variety. The Australian mentality often is: if there’s a point to be won, let’s go out and win it. We don’t wanna hang around in the rally for too long. 


This is also the reason why Australians tend to not fare so well on the slower clay (with some notable exceptions such as Ash Barty, Alex De Minaur and even Lleyton Hewitt).


This year’s Wimbledon tournament in particular has a sense of community amongst the Aussie contingent, with shared coaches, joint practice sessions and collective dinners creating a tight-knit kinship amongst the players.


At the helm of this Aussie men’s contingent is 9th seed, Alex de Minaur.


Adam Walton recently described de Minaur as a “role model” on and off-court with a “positive energy” that “brings the best out of everyone.”


Hijikata agreed, stating that de Minaur has “paved the way” for his fellow Aussies to rise up the rankings. 



With 9 Aussie men currently inside the top 100, which will be elevated to 10 when the official rankings update next Monday, the most since 1982, Hijikata’s statement has some validity. 


De Minaur himself fondly remembers the pivotal influence that older players such as John Millman, Sam Groth and his first round opponent, James Duckworth, had on his early days as a junior.


“I’ve been so incredibly fortunate with how all of the guys have kind of taken me in when I was really young. I mean, all of them were so nice to me. So receptive,” de Minaur told the media recently.


Sure, it’s been 22 years since a male winner at Wimbledon when Lleyton Hewitt claimed victory over David Nalbandian in 2002. 


And as for the women’s side, if not for Ash Barty winning in 2021, you have to go back to Evonne Goolagong in 1980 for our last ladies’ singles champion. 


Indeed, the success of Ash Barty has papered over our recent lack of female contention at Wimbledon, other than Ajla Tomljanović’s two quarter final appearances in 2021 and 2022.


However, what’s undeniable is that Australia’s rich tradition of grass-court tennis lives on today, from club level, all the way up to the professional tour.


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