Clay courts have been the favourite surface of a lot of players for a long time. The very nature of Tennis played on Clay courts is attractive to both the players and spectators alike. Long rallies, sliding, heavy topspin and the iconic tapping the shoe to remove dirt. It is all part of the spectacular show on the stage of the red dirt.
What comes to mind when I say “Clay court Tennis”? A nice warm summer afternoon lighting up an outdoor Red court with players standing on either side of the net ready to fight the battle to find the fittest player. Sounds good? Well it all changes when you shift your Clay court Tennis from Mid May to Late September. Read on to find out how.
The characteristic high bounce and topspin of the surface is affected largely by the weather conditions. A warm and dry day produces this effect thereby making it easier for the defensive baseliners to dominate play. When the weather changes to cold and damp, the story takes a complete U-turn and becomes a difficult experience for the Nadal-esque players.
The effects of cold and dampness on the surface are significant. While the bounce of the balls becomes much lower than even hard courts, the heaviness of the clay and the water content in the air make it very difficult for the ball to travel at the speed and spin intended by the 4000 RPM forehand ripping sleeveless t-shirt bicep showing… okay that’s just Rafa. But you get my point.
So who exactly enjoys playing in these conditions? Surely not the big hitting aggressive baseliners like Federer or Zverev! Or do they?
This particular condition reverses a lot of factors that affect Tennis on a Clay court. Along with the ball behaving slower and lower, the players too feel the grunt of it. The iconic sliding that we all enjoy watching and doing become a lot more difficult. The moisture on the surface prevents the shoes from sliding and almost creates too much grip for them to slip. This also leads to a difficulty in changing directions and increases the chances of twisting your ankles (imagine NBA style ankle breakers). Drop shots become even more important and so does having good hands at the net.
What does this mean for the everyday player? It simply means that there are some changes that you need to make when your city starts approaching winters.
Wear an extra layer of clothing. A great product to use is compression clothing Base layer. It keeps your body temperature regulated and does not hamper your freedom of movement.
Switch from pure clay court shoes to all court shoes TS 990 all court shoes. With abundant friction offered by the court, all court shoes help better in changing directions in these conditions.
String your rackets 3-5 pounds lighter TA 930. You will require the added power from the racket with the conditions being slow TR 990 Pro .
Use lighter balls than usual TB 920. Some extra power and spin will only make you happier.
Use more slice. The low bounce from the slice will help you get to that short ball a lot quicker and dominate play.
Use the baseline as your neutral position. Staying far behind the baseline will not benefit you anymore. Being aggressive is the way to go.
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The new normal has changed a lot of things in our lives. Luckily, the new normal on Clay courts will only last until the summer sun comes along. Enjoy this phase of Tennis while it lasts!
So Tennis players should always include a proper warm-up and stretching regime before they play. Investing time in both pre-match and post match by doing a thorough warm up and cool down is a great way of boosting your injury prevention methods and improving your performance.