• Mani Barajas

​How to Play on a Clay Tennis Court


Most tennis courts in the United States are hard court, but you may encounter clay courts from time to time or when traveling to other countries. Improve your tennis game by training on both types of surfaces! Playing on clay may push you out of your comfort zone but this is excellent for building mental toughness and developing new skills.

Effect of Spin Hitting a ball with topspin reacts differently on a clay surface than on a hard court. Clay surfaces will enhance the effect of the spin put onto the ball, causing it to bounce higher and sharper than on a hard court. Since play is slower on clay courts, players often need to go back further in the court to hit the ball. This will give the player more time to set up the shot and a better position to take the ball at shoulder height, which will help generate maximum power.

Dealing with Slide It is not possible to move as effectively on a clay surface as it is on hard court. The fine gritty surface of a clay court allows players to slide. Timing the slide into the shot while maintaining proper balance and control to be able to follow through with the shot is a learning process. Players also need to be able to recover from a slide so that they are ready for the ball. Plan to spend a significant amount of time on playing on clay courts to learn how to slide.

A Variable Surface Clay courts will play differently depending on the weather conditions and how much wear and tear the court has had. Be prepared to play fast with a high bounce on a dry, sunny day or slower with a lower bounce on a cloudy or wet day. It is also impossible to maintain a consistent bounce throughout the whole court during a match.

​Choose the Right Equipment Clay, particularly red clay courts, will stain clothing and shoes. Avoid white or light-colored clothing, opt instead for bright reds or oranges! Only wear tennis shoes designed for clay courts, players may get hurt trying to wear shoes designed for hard courts that are not meant for sliding. Regular duty or soft court tennis balls have less felt on them, which will help them travel faster and compensate for the slower surface. This type of tennis ball also picks up less clay that an “extra duty” one which may get slow or heavy with clay clinging to the thicker felt surface.

Clay Tennis Courts Green clay courts are more commonly used type of clay in the United States while red clay is frequently seen in Europe and Latin America. Despite their name, most clay courts are not actually made fully from clay since they would retain too much moisture to be usable. Clay courts are made from a solid base such as limestone with a fine coating of crushed brick on top. Clay tennis courts are gentler on the body since the surface is gentler and players will increase their patience since clay courts play slower. Longer rallies on a clay court also help players develop their playing strategy.

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