Six ways clay courts are superior to hard courts
Clay courts often get a bad rap with the odd player gripe repeated endlessly in the media, but the surface has a number of big upsides.
Here we look at the ways that a clay court is superior to the artificial hard surfaces that now dominate the top professional tours.
As the 2022 schedule stands, the ATP Tour will stage 20 clay court tournaments this year versus 38 on hard courts, both indoor and outdoor.
Clay courts are also often characterised as anachronistic, but there is a reason so many clubs opt to use the maintenance-heavy surface.
1 Natural and eco-friendly
For all the time and effort that has gone into finding the best surface for tennis to be played on the clay variations remain the most natural and eco-friendly.
While a certain amount of industrial machinery needs to be employed to avoid the construction of clay courts coming at the cost of back-breaking labour, other courts take a far greater toll and use components that have a negative environmental impact.
Grass courts of course require the use of vast amounts of water and care as well.
While clay requires constant maintenance to ensure it remains level, it is otherwise an incredibly durable surface.
As clay courts are made of crushed rock, bricks and gravel their environmental impact is minimal.
2 Quick to dry and safer when wet
Tennis has been at war with the weather since its invention, but stubbornly refuses to be moved indoors, at least not for too long.
Rain remains the enemy at Grand Slams and in tournaments around the world but clay is better equipped to handle the elements.
As it absorbs moisture, the surface also dries quicker and is less dangerous to play on when wet. (Please note: Less dangerous doesn’t mean safe. Don’t play tennis in mud.)
3 Improves player stamina, patience and toughness
Clay courts are popular training surfaces for players with the higher bounce allowing for longer rallies.
These longer rallies in training and competition build stamina, develop patience and should cultivate a certain toughness in both body and spirit.
Clay court specialists and players who grow up on clay often have these qualities in spades.
Rafael Nadal serves as the prime example even if he is such a unique athlete that deploying it reeks of cherry-picking. However, there have been plenty of players raised on clay who have dominated on hard courts.
4 Reduced risk of injury
Tennis injuries are all too often related to movement around the court and repetitive strain.
Clay courts are less prone to skidding and offer more traction to players making them less likely to suffer a bad fall.
The courts are also softer and more forgiving than hard courts if a player does end up biting the dust.
5 Clay courts are cooler
Clay courts are cooler than their hard counterparts, making spending hours in the sun a littler more tolerable.
Jannik Sinner’s blistered feet are a testament to just how hot and uncomfortable a hard court can become, especially in a place like Miami.
It may seem like a small thing but after the ‘Sunshine Double’ played on courts that could be used as torture devices, there will be plenty of players relieved to touch down on clay.
6 Pure tennis on clay courts
Professional tennis is a world away from the gentle back and forth on Victorian lawns, but some purists crave a slower more deliberate game.
The clay surface offsets the marvels of modern sports technology, that are high-end tennis rackets.
Longer rallies are a defining feature of clay court tennis and a quality that endears the surface to millions of fans. It lends the sport a different quality when it become a test of patience and craft rather than brute force.
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