For the first time in two years, the grass season is back.
After being wiped out entirely by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, this time around there are two weeks of grass tournaments leading up to Wimbledon, which starts on June 28.
So who are the players to look out for ahead of the third Grand Slam of the year?
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A hugely-promising clay season turned into a disappointing one in Paris for world No 1 Barty as she had to withdraw from her second-round match with a hip injury. Barty said the setback was “heartbreaking” but she is hopeful that she will be fit for Wimbledon, where she has been training ahead of the tournament. The 25-year-old is yet to make it past the fourth round at Wimbledon but showed she has the game for grass as she won the title in Birmingham in 2019 without dropping a set.
With no competitive singles matches under his belt since March, Murray is coming into the grass season hoping to prove his fitness. He was originally scheduled to play in Nottingham last week but opted to pull out of that tournament and focus instead on Queen’s. Murray won Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016 but has struggled to stay on the court over the last year due to injury issues. "The question mark is obviously whether the body holds up," said Murray ahead of his Queen's opener against Benoit Paire on Tuesday. "I can’t say with any great certainty right now if that is going to happen, as I have been feeling good at different points throughout the past nine months, practised really well and felt good going into tournaments, and then something has happened, like in Miami [where he suffered injury on the eve of the tournament]. I hope I will be, because I have seen enough in practice that my tennis is fine and in a good place. But physically, I need to hold up while playing matches."
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Scratch Christmas off, this is the most wonderful time of the year for Federer, who has made no secret that he has been planning his return all around being at peak fitness for the grass season. Federer is in action in Halle this week before he turns his attentions to Wimbledon, where he will be bidding to win his 21st Grand Slam title. Federer has won Wimbledon eight times and lost in the final last time out in 2019, but so far has only played a handful of matches this year as he recovers from knee surgery.
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British No 1 Konta has endured a difficult few year as she has battled injuries and struggled to produce consistent performances. However, she ended a four-year title drought with victory on the grass in Nottingham last week, becoming the first British women to win a WTA singles event in England since 1981. It was a welcome return to form for Konta, who had not previously won consecutive matches since last summer but has enjoyed success at Wimbledon. She made the semi-finals in 2017 and quarters in 2019, and might be hopeful of another good run this time around, especially with an extra week’s preparation than most of her rivals.
What can Swiatek do on grass? It will be fascinating to find out. The 20-year-old has shot to the top of the game thanks mainly due to her exploits on clay over the last year, and she has only previously played one match in the main draw at Wimbledon. Even though she was junior champion at Wimbledon in 2019, her expectations for the next few weeks are low. "I don't know if I even remember how to play on grass,” she said after losing in the quarter-finals of the French Open. “So we're going to see how that's going to go. I'm not putting any expectations or any pressure on me because really I just want to learn how to play on it. Probably I'm going to say that for few more years.” Is there a chance Swiatek adapts quicker and causes some surprises this summer?
Cilic ended a three-year wait for an ATP title as he beat Felix Auger-Aliassime in the Mercedes Cup final last week. The former Wimbledon finalist may not be the force he once was all-year round, but he served reminder of his grass prowess in Stuttgart as he didn’t drop a set all week and won 100 per cent of his first-serve points in three of his five matches. “Experience plays a big part, especially on grass,” he said after securing the 19th title of his career. “Winning here is a great way for me to continue my form and it gives me a good sign for Queen’s and Wimbledon.”
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