How to Slide on Clay
This is the second installment of our three-video series on how to slide on clay. As the world's leading supplier of clay court surfaces, the question we get asked more than any other, from teaching pros and players alike, is about how to slide on clay. Sliding not only makes you more efficient and more consistent on clay, it makes the game more fun, so we have put together a three-part video series on how to slide on clay. Check out part 2 on our website. We hope you like it and find it instructional. Give us your feedback. Har-Tru – Developing champions around the world.
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What We Can Learn From the Clay Court Season
As the men and women traipse across the Europe through the clay court season, unless you are lucky enough to be in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, or Paris, watching the tennis up close and personal, most of us (or least the author) are forced to enjoy the tennis from in front of the tele. And though I don’t necessarily suspect that you can rip the forehand like Rafa, or cover the court with sliding stretches like Novak, I do think we can all come to understand, if not anticipate the patterns of play and appreciate how the game is somewhat different when played on clay.
First, as regards surfaces (and what follows is not entirely written in stone because, over the years, the surfaces and the balls have changed somewhat), grass courts produce lower bouncing shots, and in most cases these lower bounces also shoot through the court faster than other surfaces. Hard courts slow the ball down slightly in comparison to grass courts, but in some instances facilities are purposely adding more grit to the surface to make the ball bounce a little higher and slower. Old fashioned cement courts painted slick (California in the 1960’s) produced a bounce similar to grass, and most from that generation used continental grip and now experience a somewhat a difficult transition to the new topspin game as the eyes and reflexes degrade (me). Finally, clay courts (also called Har-Tru or rubico) slow the game down the most with balls that bounce higher and slower.
So in the old days power players preferred grass, and consistent baseliners preferred clay. Certainly McEnroe, Connors, or Sampras never captured Roland Garros, but then Bjorn Borg threw this thinking for a loop with six French titles and five consecutive Wimbledon titles (though Borg had many a close call in the first week of the fortnight when the courts were still slick, by the second week they more closely resembled dirt). That said, as we enter the clay court season, be prepared to watch long intricate rallies, many shots played from well behind the baseline, and players willing and able to put in the miles and miles required to get through many of the long and arduous matches.
Inside Out Forehands from the Backhand Corner
More than in any other era, men and women will often scoot around their backhand to play a heavy topspin forehand. If the opponent is out of position this shot will be hit either crosscourt (inside out) or up the line for a winner. But in rally after rally, this ball is hit crosscourt with the opponent then scooting around the backhand and hitting a similar shot, and neither player will fully recover back to the center of the baseline. If the shots are deep, players won't generally break this pattern. It often appears as if they are daring the opponent to select the down-the-line shot.
Down-The-Line from the Corner
When stretched wide to the side of the court, any down-the-line play will be immediately followed by quicker recovery steps much closer to the center of the baseline. Sometimes this shot will be floated every so slightly to enable additional recovery time. In other instances, this down-the-line shot gives the opponent the opportunity for a sharp crosscourt angle.
Side to Side Scrambling
Note that once a player either chooses or is forced to play a down the line shot, a sharp crosscourt reply will often be followed by much more side to side scrambling by both players. Some years ago, James Blake was often the initiator of the down the line shot, and I have suspected that because he moved so well, he was creating a scrambling situation in which he thrived. Note how infrequently Federer plays down the line, and if so, he recovers quickly to the midline of the opponent's angle of play.
More than on hard courts, and definitely more than on grass courts, Fed and Rafa will often drop the ball short with severe backspin. Roger hits this shot off both wings, Rafa more often on his backhand side. And as all the players use more and more one handed underspin on their backhand wings, the element of disguise is added to this drop shot.
Note: These take-aways apply to either practice or match play, and whether on hard or soft courts.
Get comfortable with cross-court baseline play. And when in the midst of a crosscourt rally, attempt to stay along that line, getting either more length or angle than your opponent – daring them to break the pattern with a down-the-line.
If and when an opponent comes up the line – make him or her pay with a heavy crosscourt drive to the open court. Absolutely no need to play behind the opponent – run them!
If sucked into a scrambling situation, decide in advance whether you are quicker or slower than your opponent. If quicker, be patient and keep your feet moving. If slower, take some chances and be willing try to end the rally with a winner. An early error is no worse (and perhaps better) than being run to death and committing an error after four or five additional shots.
Use your drop shot when an opponent is deep and you are inside the baseline. And start to watch the opponent for tells or clues to see if and when he will try the same. Rafa and Fed might be able to disguise the dropper, but not necessarily your opponent.
As always, we would love to hear from you! Questions, comments, personal experiences all create helpful dialogue for everyone! Please click here to send us your email.
Common Thread of the Inside Out and Inside In Forehands
One of the most important strategies to emerge in the modern game has been the use of the inside out and inside in forehands. At the pro level, in almost every rally, players are running around their backhands to hit these more aggressive shots. Using four of the top pros on the men's tour, Christophe Delavaut breaks down both of these strokes and examines the similarities and differences between them. The key here is disguise and execution.
The Reverse Forehand
From very early on in his career, at every club and Public Park, it seemed that tennis players were copying Rafael Nadal’s signature vertical follow through. While specific elements of his stroke are not unique, Nadal seems to frequently use the reverse forehand in ways his predecessors did not. In this article, Michael McDowell touches upon some of the history behind the stroke as well as its evolution into the weapon it has become in Nadal’s hands.
Top Seven On-Court Drills for Doubles Tactics
A TennisOne classic – As a teaching professional and someone who hits an awful lot of tennis balls with students, David Brouwer is always looking for new and effective drills to use. In this article, he shares his top seven favorite drills and the doubles principles that each one works on. These drills help players master sound doubles tactics and they're also a lot of fun to do!
ProStrokes 2.0 – Jurgen Melzer's Backhand
This 29 year old Austrian journeyman is having something of a late career Renaissance. He is presently ranked 9th on the ATP world tour and to reach his career best ranking he holds wins in 2010 and 2011 over Gilles Simon, Marcos Baghdatis, Rafael Nadal (Shanghai World Tour Masters) Juan Carlos Ferrero, Feliciano Lopez and Novak Djokovic (Roland Garros). Left handed, nothing flashy, he just goes about his business on court. Jurgen has amassed over $6 million dollars in prize money in a 12 year career. New this issue, Melzer's Backhand.
TennisOne Writers Store
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- "Keys to Modern Tennis Technique: One-Handed Topspin," Doug King Members Public
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