This is a monthly contribution by tennis coach Marcin Bieniek, who will, now that it’s the time of Roland Garros, give you tips on how to make yourself a king/queen of dirt and explain the factors that influence your claycourt game.
Tennis on clay is completely different from grass, carpet and hard surfaces, so it is smart to prepare differently and apply specific actions to increase your chances of successful results. You have to take care of a lot of areas to make sure that you have more than one advantage over your opponents.
Clay is the slowest surface, so the RALLIES ARE MUCH LONGER. It is not a surprise to see two European players having a rally of 20-30 shots, even a few times in a row. Long rallies mean that you need solid endurance, because without it you will start making decisions based on your fatigue level and not on your strategy.
Additional factor that makes claycourt season so challenging is an ability to SLIDE. Tennis is a movement sport and different surfaces require different movement patterns, so only players who are able to adapt to these conditions and apply proper actions will be able to dominate on clay.
TOPSPIN SHOTS, DROP SHOTS, SLICE and CONSISTENCY are foundations of tennis skills that you have to possess. ENDURANCE, REACTION and SPEED are must-have skills from the physical point of view. Taking care of ENERGY INTAKE before and during the match and eating well-balanced meals after the battle are crucial steps to recover at the fastest possible pace.
And let’s not forget about psychological factors. PATIENCE, EMOTIONAL CONTROL and FIGHTING SPIRIT are skills that you have to keep under your belt to make your rivals worry.
There are 3 more crucial rules that you should apply if you want to win more matches on clay than ever before.
1. CLAYCOURT SHOES
If you play on clay courts, you need specific claycourt shoes to play your best tennis. Many players still make the big mistake of ignoring this! Claycourt shoes have special sole that allows you to slide on the court and get to the balls in the most effective way. Don’t limit your results just because you don’t want to spend additional money on a new pair of shoes. It is not worthy in the long term!
My favorite pick are the Nike Lunar Ballistec 1.5 shoes, worn by Rafael Nadal, as they are really stable, so your feet can be safe while sliding.
For women I suggest these limited-edition Asics Gel Solution Speed Paris shoes.
2. REACTION SKILLS
Clay surface makes balls bounce irregularly. That is why a lot of players who play mostly on concrete have problems quickly adjusting to clay. Irregular bounces can happen especially when the opponent applies a huge amount of spin, e.g. during forehand heavy topspin or while serving a kick serve.
Only good reaction skills will allow you to quickly adjust your position and make proper decision according to the new situations. Work on your reaction with this specific tool, the Tourna Tennis Reflex Ball, before every practice session and you will see the difference even after a few days.
3. ENERGY LEVEL
Matches on clay courts are much longer because of the slower surface and longer rallies. It means that your body has to work harder to get the win on the court. If you don’t take care of proper energy intake before and during the match, it can happen that your tennis skills are not important because you won’t have energy to use them. Remember to always have isotonic drinks with you and drink during each changeover to make sure that your body can function at the optimal level. Great stuff to deliver quick energy for your body is this PowerBar High Performance Sport Drink.
At the end, let’s learn from the best, the masters of clay. Rafael Nadal slides a lot, has great reaction and his famous routine is based on water bottles and isotonic drinks. Simona Halep is a consistent hard worker who is a big danger on clay surface. She fights, slides and looks like her energy is always high. Does it sound similar? Apply tips from this article and soon your clothes will be orange because of many hours spent on clay!
Marcin Bieniek is a professional tennis coach and founder of instructional website TennisIsland.us. He is also an author of Enjoy Tennis Blog. Marcin has been working with USTA, Top 100 ITF and WTA/ATP players. Currently he is working with Top 200 ITF female junior. He is a frequent contributor to TennisPro and TenisKlub magazines and he was a speaker at International Coaching Tennis Symposium 2016 at Hilton Head Island, USA.
MORE FROM MARCIN BIENIEK:
- How to make your serve more effective
- How to choose the best tennis racquet to fit your level, playing style and body type
- How to handle playing tennis in sunny conditions and even take it to your advantage
- 5 portable fitness tools for serious tennis players
- Best foam roller exercises for tennis players