Monday, April 20, 2009

The Dirt Gets Its Due

by Savannah

Love is in the air. Is it because all eyes in the tennis world are on Paris France? Or is it because the scales have finally fallen from the eyes of those who are paid the set the tone for all dialog on tennis in the United States? As I've said ad nauseam clay court tennis is the best tennis. I'm not going into the why's and wherefore's again. I welcome the great article written by Steve Tignor in which he finally gives the terre battue it's due.

I'd also like to point readers to a smaller opinion outlet that decries the state of clay court tennis in the state of California making the same points I've made in the past.

We are talking about (California) a tennis powerhouse with huge participation numbers, a myriad of tournaments, where intercollegiate tennis thrives like nowhere else in America. We are talking about a storied past with legedary champions but a dwindling furture in the elite ranks of this most international of sports.

Why doesn't the state of California have more clay courts? Clay does not exist and the few who are priviledged enough to have access are reaping the benefits. They play longer they play healthier and their children develop a wll rounded game. So what could possibly stop facilities from adding clay to what they have to offer?


I must also point out that there was a time when the majority of courts in the United States were red clay. It's not a secret as to why this changed and I published the article laying this out a couple of years ago.

The same SOURCE cited above, in another post, makes the following points about clay court play.

1. Spin trumps power – It just doesn’t matter if you can hit the ball harder than the person across the net on a clay court. Hard shots are slowed down by the surface and sit up rather nicely in a player’s hitting zone. Even the hardest shots are typically chased down and returned – at least at the pro level. Spin on the other hand neutralizes the opponent. A well hit top spin shot (a “heavy” ball) bounds off the clay surface with such speed and height that countering offensively is not consistently possible.

2. Use the forehand to dominate the point – The forehand can be hit with greater spin and disguise than the backhand and you can handle the high bounce more effectively. Don’t hit backhands. Step around them and allow the forehand to control the middle of the court and dictate the point. Stand as far back as you need to, run as far around as you need to, don’t hit backhand returns on any second serves, DON’T HIT BACKHANDS!

3. Be ready to transition from defense to offense - Most clay court points are played with the players 5-8’ behind the baseline. This allows the ball to drop and provides additional time so players can generate better spin. When on defense players will stand back as far as they need to in order to chase the next shot down. The key that Garcia Lopez made clear is that when use of 1 & 2 above produce a short ball you should immediately be on or inside the baseline to press the advantage. By moving up you allow your opponent less recovery time, increase the angles you can create, and open up the option of hitting a drop shot.

'Nuff said.

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