There are two types of clay courts, the red clay and the green
clay. The red clay can be natural or made up of crushed bricks mixed
with other materials as it is at Roland Garros. Green clay is made
up of crushed stone and a mixture of rubber and plastics. These
mixtures really reduce the forward velocity of the ball, eliminating
the advantage of a power game.
Clay courts are slippery which makes footing on your shots a little
tricky as well as eliminating any quick directional changes you
might try to make. The clay surface also the slowest surface to
play on reduces the affect of hard hit balls. Clay is ideal for
players with lots of top spin, it also increases the effectiveness
of the drop shot as well as back footing your opponent. Any shot
that forces your opponent to make quick directional changes will
be highly effective.
Rallies are longer on clay court then they are on other court surfaces.
You have to make more shots then normal which can really tire a
player out. The clay surface doesn't allow you to set up as well
for your shots as other playing surfaces do. Grass and hard court
allow a player the ability to stop and plant themselves for their
shot. When playing on clay, you will slide into a lot of shots.
The combination of having more time and the slippery surface really
equals out the playing field.
Most American players are very powerful. They tend to stay on the
baseline and power all of their shots. This technique may work great
on grass and hard courts where the play is fast but not so on clay.
The clay works directly against your power, slowing down the ball
and making it bounce higher allowing the opponent more time to set
up. You have to have endurance and patience to play on clay. You
have to hit more shots that would be winners on other court surfaces
before you get one on clay. Clay courts is to an American, like
running a marathon is to a sprinter. You can only sprint so far
before the marathon runner catches you. The American's can only
power their way so far into the French Open before the clay specialists
show them how it's done.
This Year James Blake, commenting on his defeat to Gael Monfils
. "He gets so many balls, especially on this surface, with it being
that slow. Makes you win the point a few times. I just didn't do
that." James Blake was the last American man in the French Open
until his match with Monfils. Power shots don't stand up to the
endurance of the clay court specialists. To be good on clay you
have to work hard. It's a surface for the grinders, the players
with loads of heart and determination.
Playing on clay is a lateral game, you can't be quick to run to
the net. The serve and volley game is really of no use on clay courts.
Playing on clay takes time, pushing your opponent deep and wide
allowing you plenty of time to get to the net to finish off the
rally. The key to success on clay is combination shots. You have
to slowly work your opponent wide and get him or her out of position
allowing you to hit winners. Push them deep and then draw them in.
Make your opponent move back and forth, hit a wide shot and then
hit behind them. The second key to winning on clay is patience.
You need to have the patience to outlast your opponent and force
them to make errors instead of going for winners. These two things
will greatly improve your playing ability on clay.
Winner = Any shot that lands in and your opponent is not
able to get to.
Back footing = When your opponent is running in one direction,
hitting the ball behind them.
Roland Garros = The location where the French Open is held.
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