Clay court

Clay court

A clay court is one of the four different types of tennis court. Clay courts are made of crushed shale, stone or brick. The red clay is slower than the green, or Har-Tru "American" clay. The French Open uses clay courts, making it unique among the Grand Slam tournaments.

Clay courts are more common in Continental Europe and Latin America than in the United States, Canada or Britain. In the United States, courts made of green clay, also known as "rubico", are often called "clay", but are not made of the same clay used in most European and Latin American countries. Although cheaper to construct than other types of tennis courts, the maintenance costs of clay are high as the surface must be rolled to preserve flatness. The water content must also be balanced; green courts are often sloped in order to allow water run-off.[1]



Clay courts favor the "full western grip" for more topspin. Clay courters generally play in a semi circle about 1.5 to 3 metres behind the baseline.

Clay courts are considered "slow", because the balls bounce relatively high and more slowly, making it more difficult for a player to hit an unreturnable shot. Points are usually longer as there are fewer winners. Therefore, clay courts heavily favor baseliners who are consistent and are generally more defensive, which has allowed players such as Rafael Nadal, Björn Borg and Justine Henin to find success at the French Open. Offensive baseliners with powerful groundstrokes have also found success on clay. This is especially true for taller players because the higher bounces land in their hitting zones, which has allowed 2 time French Open finalist Robin Söderling and women players such as Ana Ivanović, Jelena Janković and Dinara Safina to have success on clay courts.

Clay court players use topspins to throw off their opponents. Movement on gravel courts is very different from movement on any other surface. Playing on clay often involves the ability to slide into the ball during the stroke, as opposed to running and stopping like on a hard or grass court. Players who excel on clay courts but struggle to replicate the same form on fast courts are known as clay-court specialists.

Clay courts are unique in that the ball bounce leaves an impression in the ground, which can help determine whether a shot was in or out. Critics of red clay courts point to the constant need to wet them down, problems renewing the surface if it dries out, and the damage caused to clothing and footwear through stains.

Types of clay

There are five different types of clay:

Red clay

Almost all red "clay" courts are made not of natural clay but of crushed brick that is packed to make the court. The crushed brick is then covered with a topping of other crushed particles. This type of surface does not absorb water easily and is the most common in Europe and Latin America. True natural clay courts are rare because they take two to three days to dry. A good example of natural red clay can be seen at the Frick Park Clay Courts in Pittsburgh, PA, a public facility of six red clay courts that has been in continual use since 1930.[2]

Green clay

Maria Sharapova during the 2008 Family Circle Cup played on green clay

Green clay, Har-Tru or "American" clay, is similar to red clay, the differences being that it is slightly harder and faster. Green clay is packed to make the subsurface. It is then covered with a topping. These clay courts can be found in all 50 of the United States but are located primarily in the Eastern and Southern states. In parts of the gulf coast region of the Southeast, green clay courts are often referred to as "rubico". There is one WTA tournament played on green Har-Tru clay courts in 2011; the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina. Earlier there was also the MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, but that tournament ended in 2010.

Maroon clay

Maroon clay is similar to green clay. There is one ATP tournament played on maroon Har-Tru clay courts since 2008; the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas.

Blue clay

Ion Ţiriac, Romanian owner of the Madrid Masters that as of 2009 is being played on clay, has proposed a new blue clay surface, the colour of principal sponsor Mutua Madrileña, for future editions of the tournament. This controversial change is still pending for acceptance on the players' side. In the meantime, effective 2009, one of the outer courts has already been made of the new material for the players to test it. Manuel Santana, the Open's current director, has assured that aside from the color the surface keeps the same properties as the traditional red clay.[1]

Yellow clay

Yellow clay is similar to red clay. The ATP Challenger Tour event Copa Sevilla is played on this surface.


Rafael Nadal also known as The King of Clay

The most successful female player on clay in recent years has been Justine Henin, a four-time French Open singles champion who retired for the second (and presumably final) time in 2011. Her variety in the shots, speed, footwork and her slices have been her biggest weapons. Currently, the most successful male player on clay is Rafael Nadal, winner of six French Open men's singles titles—he had never lost a match at the tournament until May 31, 2009, when he was beaten by Swedish player Robin Söderling. Nadal holds the record for the longest winning streak by any male player on a single surface: 81 clay court wins between April 2005 and May 2007. Other successful clay court players include Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Björn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Monica Seles, Steffi Graf, Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, and Gustavo Kuerten.

Henin is tied with Helen Wills Moody among women for most consecutive sets won at Roland Garros, at 40 consecutive sets (from 2005–2010), although her record was achieved in the Open Era, making it significantly harder to have achieved.

Chris Evert holds the record for longest winning streak on clay for either gender: from August 1973 to May 12, 1979, she won 125 consecutive clay court matches.

Thomas Muster is also considered a successful clay court player. Although he only won the French Open once, 40 out of his 44 career singles titles were won on clay.

Clay-court specialist

A clay-court specialist is a tennis player who excels on clay courts, but does not perform to the same standard on hard courts, grass courts, or other surfaces. The term is most frequently applied to professional players on the ATP or WTA tours rather than to average players.

Due in part to advances in racquet technology, today's clay-court specialists are also known for employing long, winding groundstrokes that generate heavy topspin, strokes which are much less effective when the surface is faster and the balls don't bounce as high. Clay-court specialists tend to slide more effectively on clay than other players. Many of them are also very adept at hitting the drop shot, which is effective because rallies on clay courts often leave players pushed far beyond the baseline. Additionally, the slow, long rallies require a great degree of mental focus and physical stamina from the players.

The definition of "clay-court specialist" has varied, with some placing players such as Thomas Muster, Sergi Bruguera, Gustavo Kuerten, and Juan Carlos Ferrero in that category, even though these players have won tournaments (including Masters Series events) on other surfaces. However, since these players won major titles only at the French Open, they are sometimes labeled as such. Other players, such as Sergi Bruguera, Albert Costa and Gastón Gaudio were French Open champions who won all or very nearly all of their career titles on clay. Among female players, there have been very few whose best results were confined exclusively to clay. Virginia Ruzici, Anastasia Myskina, Iva Majoli, Sue Barker, Ana Ivanović and Francesca Schiavone are the only female players to have won major titles at only the French Open since the beginning of the tennis open era in 1968.

In recent years clay courters have attempted to play better on other surfaces[3] with some success. Ferrero reached the US Open Final in 2003[4], the same year he won the French Open, and has also won hardcourt tournaments[5]. Nadal was considered a clay court specialist until he reached four Wimbledon finals on grass (winning in 2008 and again in 2010), won the Australian Open on hardcourt in 2009, won the Olympic singles gold medal on hardcourt in 2008, completed his career Grand Slam at the 2010 US Open, and won five Masters titles on hardcourts, in addition to his success of four consecutive French Open titles and winning streak of 81 consecutive matches on clay.

Professional tournaments played on clay

Grand Slam (red)

ATP World Tour Masters 1000 (red)

ATP World Tour 500 Series (red)

ATP (red)

ATP (maroon)

WTA (green)

WTA (red)

See also


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • clay court — noun : a tennis court with a clay or dirt surface clay court championship compare grass court, hard court * * * an outdoor tennis court having a clay surface. Cf. grass court, hard court. [1915 20] * * * clay court noun Clay covered tennis court… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Clay-court specialist — A clay court specialist is a tennis player who excels on clay courts, but does not perform to the same standard on hard courts, grass courts, or other surfaces. The term is most frequently applied to professional players on the ATP or WTA tours… …   Wikipedia

  • clay court — an outdoor tennis court having a clay surface. Cf. grass court, hard court. [1915 20] * * * …   Universalium

  • clay court — /ˈkleɪ kɔt/ (say klay kawt) noun Tennis a court with a surface prepared from a red or green clay, designed to produce a slower ball speed and a shallow bounce. Compare composition court, grass court, hardcourt …  

  • clay court — noun Date: 1885 a tennis court with a clay surface or a synthetic surface that resembles clay …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • clay court — tennis court with a clay surface …   English contemporary dictionary

  • US Clay Court — est un tournoi de tennis féminin du circuit professionnel WTA. La dernière édition de l épreuve date de 1986. Avec six succès (dont quatre consécutifs de 1972 à 1975), Chris Evert détient le record de victoires en simple. Sommaire 1 Palmarès 1.1… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • US Clay Court 1978 — Nom de l édition US Clay Court Champ’s Date Du 7 au 13 août  …   Wikipédia en Français

  • US Clay Court 1979 — Nom de l édition US Clay Court Champ’s Date Du 6 au 12 août  …   Wikipédia en Français

  • US Clay Court 1980 — Nom de l édition US Clay Court Champ’s Date Du 4 au 10 août  …   Wikipédia en Français

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