Going to play on clay court can be tricky for a “hard court only” players. The way of moving and playing on a clay court is different from the one you are used to from hard court.
We already put up a list of basic advice on the clay court care for the first time clay court players and we will do the same for playing on the clay. Just read below.
#1 – Slides
The main difference between any hard court and clay court is in the possibility to make controlled (and sometimes also uncontrolled) slides. Clay is much softer than hard and you can enjoy the same movement like on the skis. However, it is not easy to make a controlled slide with the result you expect. The slide must be automated as your head has to focus on the ball and the hit, not on the slide.
It is good to practice slides with forehand and backhand crosses on both sides. Slides can be used also when going for a ball after your opponent plays a short ball close to the net.
In a slide, the front foot has to be firm as that is the foot making the slide. The second, back foot just freely helps to control the balance. Your head, eyes, and hands have to focus on coming ball to perform the hit with the racket.
Slides are useful, as you can easily start opposite movement after you finish the slide. They give you better reaction time and maneuverability on the clay court.
We recommend having suitable tennis shoes for clay to prevent ankle injuries during slides.
#2 – Longer Exchanges
You probably noticed that exchanges are usually longer on clay courts. Clay makes the tennis a bit slower compared to hard courts. You can not expect a quick serve-return game on clay. Balls are bouncing more and slower than on any solid surface. Clay works almost like a pillow for a ball and dampens the bounce and speed of the ball.
Therefore a good fitness is key for a good result on clay courts. You have to be prepared for longer exchanges and forget about quick and easy points. Essentially, you need to work off every single point on clay.
#3 – Spin and Short Hits
Clay tennis specialists employ a different hit set than aggressive hard court players. We already mentioned the patience you need during long exchanges. The flat and strong hits will not work on clay as they worked on a hard surface.
You need to use more spin and stop balls. An opponent has to be forced to move faster to the net and back as you have to try to exhaust him sooner than you will lose the strengths.
Therefore, practicing a lot of spins and short (close behind the net) shots will prepare you for a clay court match.
There are not so many tennis players who achieve good results on all surfaces. Clay tennis requires different skills as hard court tennis. Therefore you need to practice different strikes and movement tricks (slides) to play the same quality tennis you are used to. Then you will like the clay courts as much as hard courts.