Clay courts are one of the different types of tennis court surfaces. Most clay courts are red, some clay courts are green. Clay courts are made up of crushed stones and rocks (bricks).
What's the difference of playing on a clay court?
The ball bounce on a clay court is different to other types of tennis courts. On the clay court, the balls bounces particularly slower than on a hard court, and balls will bounce higher than on a grass court. For example, if you hit a high, topspin ball on a grass court, the ball will not jump up high; but on the clay court, the ball will jump up very high and push the opponent back deep!
Moving is harder on a clay court. Because clay courts have crushed stones on the surface, it makes it more slippery than other types of courts. It is especially very hard to change direction when you are running to a different direction. So, you must have effective and correct recovery patterns.
Rallies are much longer. As the clay court is a slower surface, the rallies on clay court will last for much longer, so it requires the player to have good fitness and needs to stay patient to play!
Your court positioning has to be different. On other surfaces, you may stand close to the baseline. But, on clay you must be ready for the ball at around 1-2 metres behind the baseline. This is so you can have extra time to get to the shot and hit it.
So if you have a variety of tennis skills and shots, you will be able to play better on clay; if you have good fitness, you will play better on clay. For young tennis players who don't play often on clay, they may feel very tired after playing several matches on clay e.g. playing a tournament that goes for several days.
How to play better on a clay court...
Sliding is the key to playing on clay! This is the way to play on clay. It is different from other surfaces but is most important on the clay. Sliding gives you a fast way to get to the ball and be balanced at contact. Also, it is an effective way to get into position and bend the knees.
There are some different ways to slide on clay. These include sliding into the shot, sliding after the shot and sliding while hitting the shot. When you practice sliding, always remember: the best way to slide on clay is the slide first, then hit. This will give you more balance and power (pace) on your shots!
Patience is another important thing. As the clay court is a slower surface, the rallies on clay court will last for much longer, so it requires the player to have good fitness and needs to stay patient to play! You must also stay back further behind the baseline as this allows you to get more time and therefore be able to hit a better shot.
The following drills are to help you to play better on a clay court:
1. Drop shots: Patience is very important in playing tennis on a clay court. But, you must be able to change the pace at the right time. A very good way to do this is t hit drop shots. This is the drill: the coach will feed several different balls to the player and the player must find the right time to change it up! It can be the 2nd shot, it may be the 10th! This really tests the player's patience.
2. Consistency & Fitness: Consistency is probably one of the most important assets you need to play well on a clay court. To practise this, the coach must feed 10 balls to the student. These 10 balls are supposed to alternate after every shot. (forehand, then backhand, then forehand, then backhand, etc.) This tests the players speed and fitness and the ability to change direction at tough times.
3. Defense: To practise defending, the coach must feed three deep shots, that have a reasonable amount of height and spin, to the player's forehand. Then, the coach must feed a fast ball to the player's backhand. This tests the players consistency, speed and fitness. The last shot (backhand) should be a running backhand that the player struggles to get to.
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