THE ART OF CLAY COURT TENNIS
May 28, 2011, 8:04:30 AM | by
What is your opinion of clay court tennis? Real clay, you know, the red stuff. The surface known as terra bateau which is made from crushed house bricks, not that grey/green faux clay they use in the USA. It is an...
What is your opinion of clay court tennis? Real clay, you know, the red stuff. The surface known as terra bateau which is made from crushed house bricks, not that grey/green faux clay they use in the USA. It is an interesting surface to play on and remains one of only two natural surfaces in world tennis, the other obviously being grass. To be quite poetic, to play on red clay is called the “art of clay court tennis”. You can learn to play on it but to really excel on it you probably need to be born on it. I’d say the surface has evolved to some degree over the years and here at Roland Garros, the home of clay tennis and the most important clay court tournament in the world (I’m sure the Italians would think that’s in Rome at the Foro Italico), the pace is not as slow as it once was. It’s no longer a surface for insomniacs. The ball bounces higher in Paris and you see more variety in a match and you see tennis that is thrilling. In a clay court match you know you have been through the grinder, that you have played a match. The grit is in your shoes and socks and when you take a slide there’s the red stuff over your shorts and shirt. It’s like you’ve been in the wars. You feel you’ve given it everything you have. There’s a sense of satisfaction. At the French Open stamina, both on the physical and mental side are crucial. Many believe this is the toughest of the four majors to win because five sets on red clay leaves you feeling drained, but still there is just that something extra that you can’t quite put a finger on. On clay, movement is such a big thing to master, that’s why growing up on the surface makes such a difference. You slide into the ball to return it and see the skid marks cutting through the clay; you hit with topspin and because of the topspin the single handed backhand, tennis’s most beautiful stroke, looks like a work of art. You have to be prepared to hit ball after ball in a baseline rally that can be as thrilling as a ride on a rollercoaster, as the crowds’ emotions and excitement take the ride with you. I have been fortunate to see some glorious clay court matches some that have been thrillers, others that have been straight sets. There’s been the opportunity to marvel at a master at work and for me, on clay, that is just one person, Rafael Nadal. His 2008 French Open final against Roger Federer was arguably the most brilliant clay court match played. Here on wearetennis.bnpparibas we want to know how much you like playing on clay and what is the best clay court match you have seen. What sort of mark have you left on the terra bateau?