The Second Foundation: Court Awareness and Clay Courts

The surface you’re playing on and how that affects your decision making is another important aspect of court awareness is . This week we’ll look at clay courts.

Clay courts grip the ball so that it bounces up slowly, which favors a steady baseline style. Topspin is more effective than backspin or flat balls on clay because backspin will increase the surface’s grip on the ball, slowing it down even more. It’s not unusual for clay court matches to last a few hours. You need to be mentally and physically prepared if you want to win on clay courts.

From a physical standpoint clay players must be in peak physical condition.  A long match requires a strong heart, effective lungs and leg power. The best way to develop stamina is by running to improve capacity to take in oxygen. Slack muscles will tighten during long matches, restricting leg and arm movements. Be sure to include strength training  to help avoid, or at least delay, this. Finally, clay is slippery, so don’t forget to practice your sliding to avoid overrunning.

Mentally you need to be prepared to play long, tedious points and to stick to your plan. Patience is key on clay. The mental attitude you need to have is that you’ll eliminate all mistakes rather than trying to rush the match and put away winners.

Clay courts are the true test of a player’s skills and you’ll need some tactical strength to overcome your opponent on clay. Use the 7 target areas discussed in prior posts, to do something with the ball. In case you’ve forgotten, I’m talking about the deep corners, deep down the middle, the side T’s and the drop shot areas.  Play steadily from the back court, use your all- court game at every opportunity, but avoid the net position unless you’re certain of success there. Pace with accuracy is important.

Use the side T’s as set-up areas on ground strokes to maneuver the opponent outside the doubles alley. A side T shot opens the court, which allows you to run your opponent a long way if you’re not able to hit a winner. If he counters your shot with his own placements, it becomes like a boxing match with both players counter punching.



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