While many tennis fans are excited to see big names such as Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray take the court at the All-England Club, often the matches with such “big names” are more about seeing the best in the sport compete, rather than an actual competitive match.
It’s a good idea, then, to shine a light on what should be a fun, competitive battle between two players who had to slog it out on the grass courts of Roehampton to earn their place in the Wimbledon men’s main draw.
Oscar Otte vs Arthur Rinderknech
It’s a battle of qualifiers. It’s a battle of a big servers. Arthur Rinderknech vs Oscar Otte should be an absolute treat to watch!
Oscar Otte’s triumph in Roehampton was the second Grand Slam in a row that the German had qualified for, given that he also made the main draw of Roland Garros.
In fact, in both Roland Garros and Wimbledon qualifying, Otte qualified without losing a set! That’s seriously impressive, given the stress that qualifying can bring onto players and because clay and grass are polar opposite surfaces. Clay relies more on long rallies, patience, and topspin, whereas grass puts a greater reliance on first-strike tennis, net play, and slices.
Otte won at least 78% of his first serves in all three Wimbledon qualifying matches–against Henri Laaksonen, Maxime Janvier, and Yasutaka Uchiyama. In the final two qualifying rounds, Otte won over 80% of his first-serve points.
Over the course of the qualifying tournament, Otte only faced eight break points and was only broken once. Given his first-serve numbers and how, in every match, he was winning over 55% of his second-serve points too, it makes sense that he was nearly unbreakable during the tournament.
Otte’s serve out-wide in the deuce court is particularly difficult for opponents to handle. That slice serve out-wide gives opponents fits. And while Otte isn’t quite as comfortable at the net as his opponent, he does a great job of taking the initiative from the baseline and using good depth and controlled aggression to put his opponents on the defensive.
However, given the German’s previous play on grass, he might have surprised himself with his play in Roehampton. Otte’s record on grass coming into qualifying this year was 5-6, including a 1-3 record in Wimbledon qualifying. With that said, he did make the final of the Ilkley Challenger, losing the final to Sergiy Stakhovsky in straight sets.
Still, that was only one week. One week that accounted for four of his five career grass wins coming into qualifying. He certainly wasn’t a seasoned grass courter coming into qualifying, but you wouldn’t have known it this week.
However, if there was anyone who served better than Otte on the grounds of Roehampton, it would be Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech. Rinderknech beat Matthias Bourgue, Jack Pinnington Jones, and Nikola Milojevic on his way through qualifying.
The Frenchman has an absolutely massive first serve. After winning 79% of his first serves against Bourgue, he won 91% of his first serves against Pinnington Jones and 94% of his first serves against Milojevic.
Rinderknech started off the tournament getting broken in his first service game against Bourgue. However, he only had to deal with 2 break points and wasn’t broken from that point on during his qualifying campaign!
Having that level of serving for almost 8 sets of tennis is astonishing and shows the massive threat that Rinderknech brings to the table. However, it isn’t just his serve that is so effective on faster surfaces. The Frenchman plays a very imposing game, going huge on his baseline groundstrokes and attacking the net whenever he has the possibility, a trait that’s very important on grass.
Rinderknech had originally started to ascend up the rankings right before the coronavirus pandemic hit, winning two Challengers and making the final of another, all on quick indoor hard courts.
When the pandemic shut down the tennis tour, at World No. 161, Rinderknech was one spot away from matching his career high from a few weeks prior.
But, while the pandemic hit at the worst time for Rinderknech’s career, he maintained a positive attitude.
Rinderknech told the ATP’s Josh Meiseles regarding the tour’s stoppage, “It was pretty tough for me. If I can digest what happened in January and February, and go back to work with even more motivation, I can achieve my goals. I had a pretty good chemistry on court and with some hard work, I know I can do it again…” before going on to praise those working in medical care.
And, with another Challenger title, 2 ATP Tour quarterfinals, and now a successful Grand Slam qualifying campaign under his belt, it’s clear that Rinderknech was able to take the pandemic stoppage in-stride and continue to work towards being a top player in the world.
And, it’s showing in the rankings, with the Frenchman currently at a career-high ranking of World No. 109.
So, how will this matchup play out?
Expect very serve-dominant sets. Rinderknech won 89% of his first-serve points in qualifying, while Otte won 84% of his first-serve points during his qualifying campaign. Their second-serve numbers were also strong, with Rinderknech winning 63% of his second-serve points and Otte winning 59% of his second-serve points.
Both players have also been excellent at the net, but Rinderknech has been a little more comfortable coming in. Otte has won 76% of his net points, with Rinderknech winning 75% of his net points–a statistically insignificant difference. That said, Rinderknech was into the net 103 times during his qualifying campaign, with Otte only into the net 75 times.
While Rinderknech did play one additional set, it’s still clear that, given Rinderknech was into the net 28 times more, Otte more than likely wouldn’t have made up for the difference with one additional set of tennis.
So, Rinderknech’s first and second serve numbers are a little better, and he’s a little more comfortable coming into the net. But, at the same time, Otte does have a bit more experience on grass compared to Rinderknech. Otte has played 14 career matches on grass compared to only seven for Rinderknech.
However, Rinderknech clearly seems to be picking up what it takes to be successful on grass quickly and his game is made for the grass a bit more than Otte’s.
For those reasons, expect Rinderknech to win a tight match over Otte.
But, for whoever wins this match, the draw is not bad at all. With a post-surgery Andy Murray or Nicoloz Basilashvili, who doesn’t love the grass, up next, the possibility is there for Otte or Rinderknech to go a little further. While Rinderknech did lose to Basilashvili in Halle this year, he was up a break in the 2nd set and very much in this match.
But, let’s not look forward too much. Let’s enjoy what should be a big-serving showdown in the first round of Wimbledon between Oscar Otte and Arthur Rinderknech!
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