Ask Tennishead: Mastering clay
Clay has been used for modelling from the beginning of civilisation. No, hang on, wrong end of the stick...
Patricia, Nice, France
“We have many more clay courts I think than you guys in England. Can you help me play better on this surface. It’s difficult!”
The Doctor says…
Oh la la, Patricia (they do actually say that in France). Let’s see what we can do to help…
Of course, it’s a particularly appropriate time of the year to talk about the surface. Just next week the opening clay court Masters Series event of the year will be opening its doors just along the coast from you in Monte Carlo. That will mark the beginning of the European clay court season, which climaxes in Paris at Roland Garros in late May, home of the French Open. So, you have plenty of opportunity to watch the world’s best players in action on the ‘dirt’, as it’s sometimes referred to.
You don’t say how old you are, what your standard is or what kind of playing style you have, but here are some pointers that should help you out…
1. Learn from it! Even if you find it hard going, try to be positive (even when you’re losing) because clay is a great surface to learn the game on. It’s often hard work, but you’ll benefit from the experience in the long term.
2. Make sure your technique is rock solid. If you have weaknesses, sort them out with a good coach. Technical deficiencies will be exposed on clay.
3. Decide on clear tactics. Develop each point and try to out-think your opponents.
4. Get fit! Points on clay are longer than on other surfaces so make sure you’re in decent shape so you can last the distance. Stay off the almond croissants!
5. Be mentally tough. Long points equal long games and long matches. If you’re mentally weak you will break down under pressure.
Bonne chance mon ami!
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