The cay court season is here. Starting this week, professional tennis players will be touring in Europe, competing in a series of clay court tournaments leading up to the second major event of the year, the French Open, in Paris. The full calendar of ATP events can be found here, and the WTA events can be found here.
In times when powerful shots and great athleticism are the predominant skills on the courts, it still seems like some of the best tennis in the world is played on the slow clay.
Clay court tennis is more demanding on the players, and not only physically. To be a good clay court player, one needs to have a very solid ground stroke foundation, in order to be able to handle the long rallies and the strategic play execution that is needed to be successful.
Winning a point on clay requires more than having a big serve or a big forehand. It requires understanding the game, the angles, and the importance of shot selection. A clay court match can be a brutal mental and physical experience.
Clay court tennis has been historically less forgiving to the less talented players. Few people will remember, for instance, that Chris Lewis, from New Zealand, was a professional tennis player, let alone the fact that he reached the Wimbledon final in 1983, falling to John McEnroe. These kind of surprising results are far less common on clay. One occasionaly can get away, on a fast surface, with having less solid fundamentals of the game, but it is necessary to be truly resourceful in order to do well on the dirt.