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Court Surfaces

Q. I live way down here in Mobile, AL and we have a good bit of the green clay courts here. My question is can you slide on the green clay or is it not meant for this? I have tried to no avail, nor have ever seen anyone slide on green clay. Though I have been told by a couple people that they can slide on these courts! What say you?

A. I presume that you are referring to Har-Tru or Fast Dry courts. If so, then you can definitely slide on this surface.

It is harder to slide into your shots, naturally, when the clay is damp. This is because your feet tend to “stick” more when the surface is a darker green (meaning that it is damp). To slide effectively, you need to build up a head of steam first. Stay low to the ground and use the toe of your “trail” leg to drag as your anchor. This will control how long your slide will become.

Q. I feel that whenever I play on clay my game is significantly weaker than on hard court. On clay courts the bounce is not consistent, and it is difficult to return heavy topspin shots. Are there certain styles of play that benefit the player on one surface and not the other? Is it normal to feel that my game is different on clay?

A. Ahhh, is this a US Davis Cupper writing incognito to Captain Patrick McEnroe? If not, then you definitely sound like a few of America’s top talents, so take refuge in that.

Success on clay courts requires patience, superior balance, a mature understanding of shot sequences, persistence, and- often- tremendous fitness because matches tend to last longer.

The good news is that the more you practice and compete on clay courts, the better your all-around game will become. Do not lose hope when you lose a few matches. Instead, evaluate why you came up short and how you might adjust your tactics the next time.

Q. I have a question about getting ready to play on grass. There are NO grass courts close to Omaha, Nebraska. But I am going to go play the National grass courts in Philadelphia. Is there any special training, conditioning or drills that you know of to get ready to play on a surface you never played on, such as grass? Any ideas on getting ready would be appreciated!

A. The grass courts in Philadelphia will likely be much softer than the ones we see on television at Wimbledon. With that, the bounces will be lower and less predictable.

Try to work on your volleys and your ability to move forward, and this will pay dividends at the Nationals this summer. Also, make sure that your legs are strong and flexible. You will need to bend more on soft grass courts for those low balls. We all tend to slip a little when playing on grass. The hamstrings, glutes and groin areas can be vulnerable when you compete on grass if you are not both strong and flexible. Good luck in the upcoming tournament!

Q. I have recently started to play on grass, and am finding the uneven ground really hard to cope with - the ball has a life of its own! I can't predict which angle it will bounce up and my timing has completely gone to pot. What can I do to better predict the unpredictable or to factor this uneven ground in?

A. Players have been advised to attack the net throughout history during grass court tennis matches for the very reason that you are referring to. The bounces are so unpredictable that playing volleys can, in many cases, be more certain.

While the grass courts, particularly at Wimbledon, have improved considerably at pro tournaments, there is still a premium on forcing the issue quickly on this surface. It is rare, even extraordinary, to see protracted rallies on grass.

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