Dominating short rallies: the key to Alcaraz’s success on grass

The Spaniard has won his last 13 matches on the surface

June 20, 2024

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Carlos Alcaraz won his first two titles on grass in 2023.
By Staff

Lawn tennis is still a two-touch sport.

An Infosys ATP beyond-the-numbers analysis of Carlos Alcaraz’s streak at last year’s Cinch Championships identified that the vast majority of his points played at this grass-court event in 2023 were a maximum of two shots for each player. Three out of four points (75%) had rallies with, at most, four shots. And it was precisely at that length of the rally in which the Spaniard made the most difference.

Queen’s 2023: rally length of the Alcaraz points

rally length Total disputed % disputed
0-4 shots 521 75%
5-8 shots 140 20%
9+ shots 35 5%
TOTAL 696 100%

Alcaraz won 521 points out of 696 that had rallies of, at most, four shots. Dominance in this statistical area resulted in his first title on grass. The first four throws of a point include: serve, return, serve +1 (first shot after serve), return +1 (first shot after return).

Alcaraz earned 27 more points than his opponents in rallies of up to four shots, 20 more points in rallies of between 5 and 8 shots, and only nine more points in rallies of nine shots or more. What allowed Alcaraz to be so strong in shorter rallies was his serve performance. He won 50 of 56 (89 percent) service games, hit 66 percent (236/357) of his first serves and won 76 percent (179/236) of them.

Alcaraz’s main first serve strategy was to push opponents off the court to immediately open spaces to attack.

Location of the first serve on the deuce side: open = 44% (57) to the body = 25% (33) to the T = 31% (41)

Location of the first serve on the advantage side: open = 44% (46) to the body = 21% (22) to the T = 35% (36)

Alcaraz hit 25 aces and committed nine double faults in the tournament. He had 39 percent (91/235) of first serves unreturned, and 18 percent (20/112) of second serves unreturned, which helped facilitate his “first hit” strategy after serving. Impressively, he saved 73 percent (16/22) of break point opportunities on serve, which was ten percentage points higher (66%) than his personal tour average.

When it came to second serves, Alcaraz opted almost exclusively for a kick serve toward his opponent’s backhand return location (note: all five opponents were right-handed).

Location of the second serve on the deuce side: open = 7% (4), body = 35% (18), T = 58% (30)

Second serve location on the advantage side = 45% (27), to the body = 45% (27), to the T = 10% (6)

When rallies occurred, it was Alcaraz’s forehand that caused the most damage from the back of the court.

Total groundstrokes: Forehand = 58% (379), Backhand = 42% (278)

Quality of blows: Forehand = 8.5 (379), Backhand = 7.3 (278)

Punches that landed: Forehands = 82% (309/379), Backhands = 79% (221/278)

Average speed: Forward = 73 mph, Reverse = 60 mph

Alcaraz won his 2024 Cinch Championships first round match 6-1, 7-5 against Francisco Cerúndolo with match metrics similar to his successful 2023 campaign. Alcaraz won 39 points to 33 in the four-shot rally , put 81 percent (55/68) of forehands on the court and held serve nine times out of a possible 10. It was an ideal first match back on the grass and a warning to opponents that he is still as dangerous on the surface as he was last year.


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