I've said it all before, I'll say it again here, and it will be a book. Read on if you want... The #1 mistake Professional Tennis made in the last 30 years was allowing the huge racquet and string changes in their essential equipment.
What tennis did was allow the equivalent of Major League Baseball allowing use aluminum and various composite over-sized metal bats.
The essential equipment is part of the sport. You can't change the equipment drastically and keep the same or even similar sport.
Major League Baseball has wisely kept solid wooden baseball bats that haven't changed significantly in over 100 years (after they changed from flat sided to round). The bat dimensions have been limited. No more than 42 inches long and the barrel no more than 2 and 3/4 inches in diameter. The other aluminum, graphite, laminate, composite bats that are made can be used for various lesser leagues and amateur players, but not pro baseball. The ball's dimensions, weight and composition are all regulated in the rules. Occasionally, some balls have been produced over the years that some have said are "juiced" or livelier than the year before, but these instances are investigated and straightened out.
If baseball had gone the way of tennis, everyone would be hitting like King Kong and the nature of the game would change drastically. Modern records would be meaningless in comparison to historical records. Then to follow what tennis did to compensate for the equipment mistake, they would have had to redesign the ball park dimensions to go from 400 foot to 1000 foot distances from home plate to the outfield fences, and play with at least 2 sets of outfielders and probably an extra infielder or two.
Baseball has made slight
changes over the years to compensate for when the sport became out of balance, such as when pitching and defense began overwhelming hitting and offense. They decreased the strike zone somewhat. But that was a tinkering type of adjustment. Quite slight.
Pro Tennis has erred greatly, not once but twice. First, they allowed drastically alterations to the basic equipment. These modern composite racquets with 100+ sq inch heads are fine for youngsters, old people, and amateurs but they should have never been introduced in the pro game. The strings they are allowing these days are in my mind, the equivalent of the spaghetti strings that were banned in the late 70's. Combined with the racquet changes in composition and size - 100+ sq. inch head sizes with bigger sweet spots, they have allowed less skilled players to hit the ball harder and with tremendous spin and control. One used to hit with a wooden racquet that had a head size around 65 to 70 sq inches. It took much greater skill to hit the ball hard and with spin.
It is NOT
evolution of the sport to allow equipment that changes the nature of the game so much. Whoever gives you the "evolution of the sport" line is marketing out of their butt. It is a degrading of the professional sport to allow equipment that allows players with less skill to succeed. How can you even begin to compare players of different generations when the newer players have advantages of superlative racquets and strings?
They allowed more and more changes in new equipment, via more exotic, stronger, but lightweight frames, bigger heads, then what? The pendulum swung way in favor of the serve and volley players and offensive game and less skilled athletes. One-two shots and done. The clay courters, grinders, baseliners, and coaches complained they could not compete, especially on hard courts and grass and threatened not to play.
The next mistake made was instead of reverting to the older type of wooden racquets, from around 2001 to 2010, the tournaments decided to scramble to start changing the courts and balls to try and compensate by slowing hard courts and grass down. Hard courts are easier to regulate and slow down with gritty top layers of paint. Clay courts are slower by nature and can be controlled to an extent by amount of clay and watering. Balls were made somewhat bigger and heavier, but you can only do that to a certain extent. But then when these changes were made, the game changed again to favor base-liners and grinders and counter punchers. It has, especially on the jarring hard courts, become a game where stamina is at a premium and the last man standing wins. Some may find this lengthy play to be exciting, but others look at it as repetitive and boring, making more players prone to injuries, and conducive to temptation to use advanced performance and recovery enhancing techniques.
What was done with grass? You can change the grass as they did at Wimbledon to be more of an upright type in an attempt to change the angle of the bounce somewhat and allow the ground to get denser for higher bounces that will slow the game a bit, especially once the grass starts wearing out. But fresh grass is fresh grass. You can adjust a bit, by cutting it a tad higher, but it can't be too high as you will get irregular bounces. You can water it only so much or balls won't bounce properly.
I don't want to hear the slippery excuse. Grass courts have always been a different beast, and people learned to play on them and excelled without producing more than the normal amount of injuries. You have to use a different sort of footwork and movement on them. Try to play on them like clay or hard court, and you deserve to go down. You can't try to take big strides, plant hard, and reverse direction, or slide like on clay. Footwork must be precise, quick, and you must avoid overly committing with overly aggressive movement.
A full hard run to the ball to either side, will probably be your last shot. Grass wasn't meant to be for rallying side to side for 20 shots. You are better off letting the ball go if it is out of range. There is no rule that says you have to try and run every ball down and hurt yourself trying. Grass by it's nature is intended to be more of a North-South game (baseline to net), not East-West (sideline to sideline) like clay. You try to come in and cut off the ball as much as possible, because it is much easier for the offensive player to hit winners with slice and angle, and the ball tends to not bounce as high
or as regularly
as on a solid surface, making it more difficult to defend from the back of the court.
Weather can play a part. If it is humid, the grass can get more slippery, and you have to make the adjustment with shorter more steady steps. Sometimes you can still slip. But grass is softer than hard court so it doesn't hurt as much if you fall or take the odd leap ala Boris Becker or Gael Monfils. Players that can't make these adjustments don't do as well on grass. Simple as that.
Many players that grew up and trained on hard courts also can't adjust to clay. Players also get hurt on clay if they stumble or don't slide right. Hard courts offer more solid dependable footing, but are more jarring over time, especially if they are slow. One can get injured in sport. It's a risk all players take. Bigger, heavier people usually fall down harder and are not usually as coordinated in their movements as smaller, lighter, more adroit people and are generally more injury prone. Tennis was for years played by average sized to somewhat bigger than average, but always athletic people for a reason. Now you have less coordinated, less athletic basketball sized players playing tennis because the racquet technology requires less skill, balls bounce higher and the courts are slow enough so they don't have to move so fast, but their big size along with the equipment allows them to hit the ball harder than the average size person to make their size an advantage.
People don't change much. They might get slightly bigger, yes. They might get a bit stronger, yes, due to various modern training techniques and special diets, nutrients, and potions. But when the equipment changes as drastically as it has, it affects everything.
The sport was called Lawn Tennis. It was mostly played on grass. Why have grass courts gone away in Pro Tennis? Don't let anyone tell you it is because they are expensive and hard to maintain. How many 7200 yard golf courses with 18 finely manicured greens as big or bigger than a tennis court, and fairways cut to perfection, are played on asphalt or acrylic surfaces or dirt? I would say that most pro tournaments could afford having grass courts, especially masters 1000 and slams.
I would say that grass courts have mostly gone away because a greater number of players over the years don't know how to play grass court tennis properly, coming from clay and hard court backgrounds. Most public outdoor courts in the US are hard court or Har-Tru. Most public courts in Europe are red clay. Then these players have to play a couple of tournaments on grass, and they are out of their element.
Look at last year when Madrid went to blue clay. Many players complained, some notable players even threatened to boycott the tournament, because they were not able to adapt well to the surface. Many other players adapted fine due to their backgrounds or natural ability to move correctly on the surface. The players that adapted to the surface didn't have a problem and did well in the tournament, while the players that didn't got beaten, hurt, upset, you name it. Look at Wimbledon this year; it's a similar story.
Many players today have been "spoiled" by the surfaces playing rather similarly. When they don't play like what they are used to, they complain, mostly because they didn't train on having to adapt to different surfaces. They tend to get hurt because they don't or can't adapt.
Fresh grass will continue to play differently compared to clay, and clay will play a bit differently than hard court, and hard court a bit differently than grass, even if the effective speeds of the courts are made similar. The transition from clay to grass can be difficult for some, easier for others. It's been that way for at least 60 years.
The best thing Pro Tennis could do is restrict their equipment. I don't know if they will. It's hard to put the genie back in the bottle, especially with the marketing geniuses and money involved.
I would start with the strings and regulate them, make all players play with the same pure gut strings (even if it breaks more often), and gradually reduce the racquet head sizes, back to around 85 sq inches. and see what happens. Players will complain, some won't adapt, but it will be good for the game. At the same time, they will have to alter the surfaces again. Convert some of the slow hard courts to real grass tournaments. Hard court should be medium fast at least. Clay courts should still be relatively slow and favor point construction.
My guess is that if these changes were made, it will all result in fewer injuries. Less play where the last man standing after 5 hours wins because he didn't make the last unforced error. Reduced needs for entourages with physios, doctors, trainers trying to enhance their player to a superhuman level. Make the surfaces have variety, restrict the equipment, and place a premium on skill rather than endurance, and it should make it easier for talented youngsters to be competitive on their favorite surfaces as well.