Scratching the Surface: Five claycourt myths

Our own Asad Raza in Tennis magazine:

2008_05_28_clay_articleThe claycourt season has reached its championship round: the French Open.  As most in the world of tennis begin their capaigns at Roland Garros, it’s a good time to investigate some of the myths surrounding la terre battue.

No. 1: Claycourt tennis is for claycourt “specialists,” who disappear once the game switches to the grass of Wimbledon and the hardcourts of the U.S. Open Series.

This, more than any other long-held belief about the red stuff, is now a myth.  Rafael Nadal, the dominant clay player of this–and perhaps any–era, has singlehandedly destroyed this perception by appearing in the last two Wimbledon finals.  The world’s second-best clay player, Roger Federer, also happens to have won the last five Wimbledons and four U.S. Opens.

Beyond them, the next three highest-ranked men’s players in the world–Novak Djokovic, Nikolay Davydenko, and David Ferrer–are excellent clay-court players as well.  And in women’s tennis, the surface specialization that once beset men’s tennis doesn’t exist: the best player of the last year, recently retired Justine Henin, won four of the last five French Opens.

For today’s top players, prowess on clay is the norm, not the exception.

No. 2: Playing on clay means attacking players must change their tactics.

Djokovic, Davydenko, Andy Roddick, and others in Rome were asked how they adapted their games from hardcourts to red clay.  Not a single one said making they made tactical changes, other than the occasional dropshot: instead, all mentioned increased patience and wiser shot selection.

More here.