Beyond The Numbers

Why Alcaraz's First-Strike Tennis Is Key On Grass

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analyses Spaniard's grass game
July 03, 2023
Carlos Alcaraz won 53 per cent of 0-4 shot rallies to win his maiden grass-court title.
Getty Images/ATP Tour
Carlos Alcaraz won 53 per cent of 0-4 shot rallies to win his maiden grass-court title. By Craig O'Shannessy

Can Carlos Alcaraz win Wimbledon this year?

The short answer is an emphatic yes after a spectacular dress rehearsal at the Cinch Championships last week in London, where he won his maiden grass-court title.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Alcaraz’s five matches identified the Spaniard was dialed in by dominating opponents in the “first strike” rally length of 0-4 shots. Overall, Alcaraz played around 70 per cent of his points in “0-4”, meaning that every seven out of 10 points he only hit the ball in the court a maximum of two times. Grass-court tennis is still very much about the serve, return, and the the ensuing two shots.

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Alcaraz Rally Length Played

• 0-4 Shots = 71% (494)
• 5-8 Shots = 22% (154)
• 9+ Shots = 7% (46)

Overall, Alcaraz won 54 per cent (375) of his points in five matches to win the tournament, showing just how close the margins are to secure victory. Another way to interpret this data is to recognise losing 46 per cent (319 points) of total points represents a good week at the office.

The rally length data clearly identifies that Alcaraz feels right at home on the grass, dominating the shorter rallies of 0-4 shots more than the other two rally lengths.

Alcaraz Rally Length Won

• 0-4 Shots = +30 (262 won/232 lost)
• 5-8 Shots = +18 (86 won/68 lost)
• 9+ Shots = +8 (27 won/19 lost)

Alcaraz forged his most significant winning margin in the 0-4 shot rally length, winning thirty more points than he lost for the tournament. He was only +18 in the 5-8 shot rally length and just +8 in the 9+ rally length. These Queens Club grass-court match metrics are the ideal preparation to take the title at SW19.

What’s fascinating is that Alcaraz played more one-shot rallies (just one ball in play) than any other rally length for the five matches. Following is the breakdown of rally length in the first four shots. 

Rallies Played: Balls In The Court

• One Shot = 32% (160)
• Three Shots = 29% (145)
• Two Shots = 24% (121)
• Four Shots = 14% (69)

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A three-shot rally jumps a two-shot rally because of the halo effect of the serve. Alcaraz’s power-forehand and rock-solid backhand naturally devour any weak returns from his opponents.

Alcaraz has already proven that his game is well-suited to excel on hard and clay courts, and his effort at Queen's Club ticked the box for grass courts as well. Alcaraz plays with exceptional balance, and his compact forehand and backhand backswings are hard to extract errors from.

Alcaraz is back to world No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings after winning the Cinch Championships. He held a silver trophy as a reward. Don’t be surprised to see a golden trophy in his hands in two weeks' time.

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