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Why The Grass Is Always Greener For Roger Federer

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Roger Federer Open Day

Any way that you want to slice it – titles, matches, sets, games, or points – Roger Federer has no peer on a grass court.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of the best performers on grass courts from 1991-2019 identifies that the Swiss Maestro sits alone at the top of the mountain with peak performance in all five facets of the game. The data set is comprised of 277 players who played a minimum of 20 grass court matches from 1991, when official ATP statistics were first recorded. The only exception is grass court titles, which includes tournaments in the Open Era since 1968.

1. Grass Court Titles = 19

Federer has amassed an unparalleled 19 titles on grass, including a record eight Wimbledon titles, 10 in Halle, and one in Stuttgart. It’s jaw-dropping to know that Federer has won more grass-court titles than Pete Sampras (10) and John McEnroe (8) combined.

Federer’s first Wimbledon title came in 2003, defeating Mark Philippoussis 7-6(5), 6-2, 7-6(3) in the final. Serve-and-volley tennis was a key to Federer’s run as he won a dominant 68.1 per cent (213/313) of points rushing straight to the net after a serve. Federer served and volleyed 313 times out of 545 first and second-serve points, good for a head-turning 57 per cent.

Those tactical metrics are in stark contrast to his run to the Wimbledon final in 2019, where he served and volleyed just 72 times from 643 first and second-serve points, which was just 11 per cent of total serve points.

The leading players with the most grass court titles in the Open era are:

1. Roger Federer = 19
2. Pete Sampras = 10
3. Jimmy Connors = 9
T4. John McEnroe = 8
T4. Andy Murray = 8
T4. Ken Rosewall = 8
T4. Stan Smith = 8
T4. Lleyton Hewitt = 8

2. Grass-Court Matches = 87.3%

Federer has won 87.3 per cent (185/212) of his grass-court matches, including 41 straight at Wimbledon from 2003 to the 2008 final, where Rafael Nadal snapped the streak by defeating Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7. During that six-year period, Federer won 66 straight matches on grass at Halle and Wimbledon combined.

The leading five players who have won the highest percentage of grass-court matches are:

1. Roger Federer = 87.4% (185/212)
2. Pete Sampras = 85.7% (90/105)
3. Novak Djokovic = 84.1% (95/113)
4. Andy Murray = 82.6% (100/121)
5. Michael Stich = 81.0% (47/58)

3. Grass-Court Sets = 80.1%

Federer is the only player in the data set to win at least eight grass-court sets out of every 10 played. Only three times at Halle (2017, 2008, 2004) and once at Wimbledon (2017) did Federer win the title without dropping a set, signifying just how difficult it is to be always on your game.

The leading five players with grass-court sets won are:

1. Roger Federer = 80.1% (494/617)
2. Pete Sampras = 77.5% (248/320)
3. Andy Murray = 76.0% (269/354)
4. Novak Djokovic = 75.9% (271/357)
5. Andy Roddick = 72.3% (214/296)

4. Grass-Court Games = 58.9%

Federer boasts a slight lead of less than one percentage point in this area over arch-rival Djokovic. Head-to-head at Wimbledon, Djokovic has won three finals (2019, 2015 & 2014) against Federer, while the Swiss triumphed in 2012 in the semi-finals against the Serbian.

The leading five players with grass-court games won are:

1. Roger Federer = 58.9% (3679/6248)
2. Novak Djokovic = 58.1% (2046/3251)
3. Andy Murray = 57.9% (2013/3476)
4. Pete Sampras = 57.7% (1856/3216)
5. Rafael Nadal = 56.8% (1677/2953)

5. Grass-Court Points (54.7%)

Federer played more than twice the amount of grass-court matches (212-105) than Sampras, but when the focus shifts from big picture to small, Federer leads Sampras by just one-tenth of a percentage point with points won. Overall, Federer has played by far the most points on grass at 37,968, while Hewitt sits in second place at 26,178.

The leading five players with percentage of points won on grass are:

1. Roger Federer = 54.7% (20,775/37,968)
2. Pete Sampras = 54.6% (11,693/21,402)
3. Novak Djokovic = 54.0% (11,864/21,964)
4. Richard Krajicek = 54.0% (9163/16/981)
5. Andy Murray = 53.8% (11609/21,565)

We will have to wait until the next grass-court season to see how Federer adds to his prodigious grass court legacy.

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