Clay court masters.

19 May

                  Nine of the top-10 men in the ATP rankings learned to play primarily on clay or had extensive clay court training. It’s no surprise the best coaches are advocating getting their players on the clay – and fast!

Even the clay allergic Americans, Aussies and now the Brits have woken from their slumber. Mastering clay is the corner stone of an elite players apprenticeship.

“You can’t just bang your way to victory in today’s tennis anymore,” said Patrick McEnroe, former US Davis Cup captain. “You need to know how to build a point, use different spins and angles, to mix offense and defense. Those skills are exactly what playing on clay teaches you.”

The reality is that even if you are uncomfortable on clay courts, training on clay will improve your game for all surfaces. It teaches players the need to use angles, spin, the different heights over the net. It teaches resilience, determination and structure. There is the need to be mentally strong, to grind it out, and of course to be physically strong. The simple fact is that you have to hit so many shots, to build and construct a rally. It’s hard work – you need to be switched on and nothing comes easily. Clay teaches you patience, the art of working for success, and that in turn builds strength and confidence.

For your own game to profit from clay court training The PRO suggests you start by developing your endurance base. Once this is consolidated shift the physical focus to agility and speed  as your movement and court positioning must be first-class. Develop your serve and return to defined and aggressive target areas. Keep working on your consistency – but always with specific target areas for all hitting sessions. Shore up your weaknesses, develop your baseline weapons, and become a good “finisher” – whether be at net, mid-court or the baseline.

Jose Higueras, the revered Spanish coach who now works for the USTA states: “Clay teaches you how to suffer.”

And finally, from me, don’t just suffer – keep learning – stay mentally tough and enjoy the battle.


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