The French Open will be starting in a few days, the culmination of a jam packed clay court season on the ATP and WTA tour. While you’re watching your favourite players, try to see what is different in their style of play and tactics. If you’ve been brought up on hard courts like me, playing on a clay court is hard at first, but you will grow to love it. I still can’t slide properly though. The exact opposite is true of Djokovic, if you watch him, he slides on every surface, even hard courts. It works for him, but unless you have elastic legs like him, I wouldn’t recommend it on hard courts.
Classic clay court players are of course the Spanish (like the King of Clay Rafael Nadal) and French. In fact, most of Northern and Southern Europe, apart from the UK, play primarily on clay. Here in Cyprus, there are not a lot of clay courts (they require a lot of water and maintenance) and those that there are are not in particularly good condition, apart from those at Aphrodite Hills. If you do have a chance though, it’s worth trying.
So what’s different about clay? What should you be watching for in what will probably be some very exciting matches at Roland Garros?
– the rallies tend to be longer
– at club level and even at the Open, you will see players waiting for the ball to drop before they hit it, whereas on hard courts you are more likely to hit at the top of the bounce or as it rises once you are in the groove
– there will be more drop shots & lobs
– spin becomes more pronounced because of the friction of the surface, so there’s more topspin & slice
– harder serves get slowed down, so it’s more about placement
– its physically more demanding, keeping the ball in and making your opponent run may work for you
– you’ll see Nadal, Ferrer and many others running around their forehands
– you’ll see most players sliding
That is a very brief summary, but I’ve included below some links to some interesting articles giving a bit more information:
- Andy Murray ‘right’ to focus on Wimbledon, not Paris (theweek.co.uk)
- Rafael Nadal’s Presence on Clay Courts Has Already Intimidated Andy Murray (bleacherreport.com)
- The Toss: Should the French Open alter seeding for Rafael Nadal? (tennis.si.com)
- Andy Murray: Rafael Nadal is the favourite to win the French Open (dailyrecord.co.uk)
- French Open 2013: About That Roger Federer Backhand Versus Rafael Nadal (bleacherreport.com)
- The Best Male Clay Courters of the Open Era… (bleacherreport.com)
- All-star cast return to red clay courts in Madrid (dailystar.com.lb)