Clay courts key to developing tennis players

Why clay courts are so important for the development of players

Clay Courts

The ladies and men’s tennis tours have a significant proportion of the season designated to the clay courts.  Once the big two March American hardcourt Masters 1000 events are completed; from clay court season dominates until mid-June. Following a short break to fit in the Wimbledon Championships the clay season resumes in midsummer in Europe.

For many clay courts are tennis and if a young player wishes to prosper on the tennis tour then a good grounding on the clay courts is an absolute must. Unfortunately, in Britain there are very few clay courts available and young players must hone their skills on the faster hard or astro turf courts.

Why clay is important for pro players

If we consider the favourites for the upcoming French Open almost all players come from a clay court background. The tennis odds tell us that players like Halep, Nadal, and Thiem are favourites and they all come from countries in which clay courts predominate. It has been many a year since a non-clay courter has won the French Open. Clay courters tend to transfer well to the other surfaces especially given their grounding in stroke production hammered into them from a young age.

The problem of maintenance in the UK

Part of the problem for UK aside from the temperate climate is that the courts need quite a lot of care to prevent bad bounces. We all see the courts of Roland Garros being swept after every set. The trouble is that hard court park courts, inner-city courts require little to no maintenance. The onus is on the users of the courts to manage the condition of the courts themselves.

Peter Sutton of Clay Court Services says it is easier to teach a youngster on a clay court service. Of course he is right, the slower paced ball enables a player to get the racket back and in position for the shot. On faster surfaces, this preparation time is taken away. Peter continues ‘ when you learn to drive, you don’t get in a Formula 1 car, you go at 20mph.’ This is perhaps why players from clay court backgrounds often bring better technical shots to the court.

National Tennis Federations throughout the world need to take heed. All the top nations who have most players in the top echelons of the game all have clay courts. The French, Spanish, Italians and Argentinians all have clay courts at the heart of their tennis facilities. Countries like GB and others should do the same and perhaps begin to more top tennis players.


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