The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

4 grass-court experts to keep an eye on at Wimbledon this year

June 29, 2019

The tennis season is going by so quickly that we’re already discussing Wimbledon. Compared to other court surfaces, the grass season is the shortest, which means players have a smaller window to adjust their games and prepare for the All-England Club. Here are a couple names to keep an eye on when it all begins on Canada Day.

Ashleigh Barty

Barty’s name popping up on this list in is an obvious one. But how can you argue with her 2019 season so far? She won Roland-Garros less than a month ago. She a key member of Australia’s team that will play in November’s Fed Cup Final against France. She didn’t drop a single set on route to capturing the Birmingham Classic and the World No. 1 crown. Barty holds an impressive 36-5 record this year. I don’t know about you, but the 23-year-old is the clear favourite to win this tournament.

Barty’s game translates very well to grass – she’s a crafty player that utilizes the kick serve and backhand slice to perfection. Don’t forget, her favourite surface is grass.

Venus Williams

I know, Venus is 39 years old but she has been very effective on grass recently and historically. The American fell in the 2017 Wimbledon final to Garbine Muguruza, and was a semi-finalist in 2016. Wimbledon continues to be the best tournament for the eldest Williams sister. She reached the final nine times and has won on five separate occasions.

It’s quite obvious she’s comfortable on grass. The American owns a powerful serve and groundstrokes, but is even better around the net with her long arms and athleticism. This type of playing style can and will frustrate opponents at times. She recently went toe-to-toe with Barty in the quarter-finals of the Birmingham Classic but fell in straight sets (6-4, 6-3). Venus is a definitely one to watch.

Angelique Kerber

Despite her struggles during the clay season, the defending champion is always someone to keep a watchful eye on. An ankle injury was likely the main reason for the three-time Grand Slam champion’s first-round loss at Roland-Garros.

Kerber did, however, look healthy at the Mallorca Open less than a week ago. She made the semi-finals before dropping a three-set battle to nemesis Belinda Bencic. You can tell the World No. 5 is finding her stride on grass just by watching her world-class and inimitable defending and movement round the court. In addition, her lefty serve packs an extra punch thanks to the court speed of grass.

The lefty holds a career 30-10 record at Wimbledon, which includes an appearance in the finals in 2016. A year later, Kerber managed to reach the fourth round before she fell to the eventual champion Garbine Muguruza in three sets, and is – of course – the defending champion this year, having knocked out Serena Williams in last year’s final.

Belinda Bencic

Bencic is a perfect dark horse candidate at Wimbledon this season. The 2015 Rogers Cup champion continues to show flashes of her potential this year. The 22-year-old took down four top-10 players (Aryna Sabalenka, Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and Petra Kvitotva) to capture the Dubai Tennis Championships in February. Other notable performances this year includes semi-finals appearances at the Madrid Open and Indian Wells. Bencic was also a finalist at the Mallorca Open during this grass-court season. She holds wins over Kerber, Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova in 2019.

The World No. 13 is a very intelligent player that can adjust her game to exploit opponents’ weaknesses. She’s one of the best at returning serves in the WTA and turning defence into offence with one swing. Bencic is knocking on the door, but don’t be surprised if she kicks it down at Wimbledon.

(Feature photo: Getty Images)