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Tennis Bucket List: Play on Clay 

Tennis Bucket List: Play on Clay

Ivan Lendl vs. John McEnroe, 1984 French Open


You’ve seen it at the French Open: That red dusty court on which Rafael Nadal dominates. That’s right. We’re talking about the clay tennis court. And if you’ve never played on a clay tennis court, get it on your Tennis bucket list ASAP.

The clay tennis court is an experience every tennis player has to try at least ONCE in his or her lifetime. The allure of the red powder is hard to deny. Here’s why:

  1. The Slide: Sliding is fun. The clay on the court is packed with crushed brick or other materials such as shale and stone. Clay tennis courts in America are usually made of Har Tru clay, crushed basalt. No matter what type of clay, though, you will slide. Sliding and gliding on the clay court does take some getting used to but is very invigorating. Before playing on a clay tennis court, practice sliding on a clay court to get the feel for it. You generally want to bend your knees and stay low. Or, you can watch the “King of Clay” Rafael Nadal to get a better idea of how it’s done.
  2. Longer matches: Clay courts offer player longer rallies which result in longer matches. The clay court slows the ball down and allows the ball to bounce higher. As a result, tennis players have a somewhat easier time getting to the ball. They are also able to plan their hit out in advance given there is more time, making shots very returnable. It takes a long rally to get a winner. Players have to battle it out and work for the point.
  3. Down and dirty: Clay tennis courts are quite dusty. This being said, you will get dirty. But believe us, there’s nothing like a fresh coat of clay all over yourself after a long rally. It’s almost like a souvenir of your time on the clay. Don’t worry, it washes off your clothes and, as long as your tennis shoes aren’t white, you can dust most of the clay off your shoes. Most courts have a brush to wipe your shoes off with when you’re done playing.
  4. Easier on your body and your shoes:  Compared to a hard court, clay courts are easier on your body given the clay material is softer than hard court. Many aging tennis players prefer the clay courts because it’s softer on joints and there is less impact. Your body isn’t the only thing that takes less of a beating on a clay tennis court, your tennis shoes do also. Your shoes will take less impact and will last longer if you play on clay tennis courts.
  5. Clay courts are so European: Clay courts are expensive to maintain and are not very common in the United States, though they are growing in popularity. Clay tennis courts are very popular in Europe as well as Latin America, where most of the big clay tennis tournaments are played. European tennis players dominate the clay court tournaments because they are used to training on clay courts, especially at private tennis clubs.  Americans very rarely get the chance to play on clay courts which could account for why so few Americans win tennis tournaments such as the French open.

Grab your tennis racquet, find a clay court and get a game on. Nothing compares to the experience of hitting a clay tennis court for a few rallies against an opponent.
Clay game on.


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