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Montreal: August 3, 2024 - August 12, 2024
Toronto: August 4, 2024 - August 12, 2024
Montreal : August 3 - 12, 2024
Toronto : August 4 - 12, 2024

The Wonders of Grass-Court Tennis

Do you remember your first memories of watching professional tennis? The first time you got hooked on the sport?

It’s crystal clear for me and goes back to 1988 watching Boris Becker throw his body around the grass-courts of Wimbledon with reckless abandon, diving for volleys and landing thundering serves that left his opponents in awe.

There was something so captivating watching the contrast of the all-white attire on the perfectly manicured lawns of the All-England Club that took hold and has never let go.

Here we are again at the start of the shortest season of the tennis calendar, but one that many tennis fans look forward to just as much as I do.

Grass-court tennis has evolved quite a bit since my early days of watching it. Back then it was most often dominated by the big servers like Pete Sampras, Goran Ivanisevic, Serena and Venus Williams, as well as by expert volleyers like Martina Navratilova, Jana Novotna, Stefan Edberg and of course Becker.

Read also: Andreescu reaches first final since 2022, Leylah set for grass

The surface doesn’t quite play as fast as it once did, nor do players serve and volley like they did back in the 1970s and 1980s. Still there’s something special about watching the pros navigate the low bounces and slippery surface that intrigues us.

Maybe in part it is because most recreational tennis players don’t have the opportunity to play on grass. Historians of the sport also no-doubt enjoy grass court tennis as it was once much more prominent on the tennis calendar.

The grass court season today is the shortest season consisting of three weeks of events on both the ATP and WTA before reaching it's peak at Wimbledon, the oldest tournament in professional tennis. Wimbledon, even today in this age of technological innovations, automatic line calling and retractable roofs, has managed to stay as true to itself as possible. It still just feels like tennis in its purest form.

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Grass is also a surface where Canadians have made their mark in recent years. Daniel Nestor captured Wimbledon twice, in 2008 and 2009 in the men’s doubles as well as in mixed doubles in 2013.

Who can forget Genie Bouchard’s stunning run to the finals ten years ago as a twenty-year-old? Along the way she defeated big-time names such as Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep. Two years later, it was Milos Raonic in 2016 who serve-and-volleyed his way to the men’s singles final with an especially memorable five-set victory over Roger Federer in the semifinals.

This year, the grass-court season has already been kind to Canadians with Gabriela Dabrowski capturing a title alongside Erin Routliffe at the Nottingham Open. What’s especially impressive about the result is the fact that Dabrowski was just returning from a three-month injury layoff that saw her forced to skip the entire clay court season. It was also the very first grass-court event that the two have played together as partners!

Bianca Andreescu also had a fantastic week leading up to her 24th birthday, as she made the singles final of the Libema Open in only her second tournament back on the WTA after missing nine months due to a back injury.

In particular, her quarter-final victory over former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka reminded the tennis world of what Andreescu is capable of accomplishing when healthy.

On the men’s side, both Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov have tasted success at the All-England Club in the past with quarter-final and semifinal appearances respectively there in 2021, while Milos Raonic just made the quarters last week at ‘s-Hertogenbosch which is a nice step forward for him.

In the meantime, this week he made tennis history. The 33-year-old fired an incredible 47 aces in a 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 win over Cameron Norrie at the Queen's Club Championships. The mark is an all-time record for most aces in a best-of-three match.

The transition to grass courts could be just what the doctor ordered for our Canadian crew as the 2024 season moves along. We have the experience now among the above group of players to certainly cause some damage and prove that the surface is one that can lead to big things for us.

The WTA's best return to Toronto this summer for the National Bank Open August 4 to 12 at Sobeys Stadium. Tickets are on sale. Get your tickets today!

Feature Photo: Martin Sidorjak