Five tactics for better clay court tennis
The clay court season is now in full swing with the second grand slam of the year, the French Open about to begin this weekend. This is a perfect time to look into the tactics that are employed on the red dirt. There are 10’s of 1000s of tactics that can be used in a tennis match, with clay courts being slow and high bouncing causing rallies to go for longer, the tactics carried out on this surface are much more varied to say an indoor court or a grass court. Below I have detailed some basic clay court tactics that can be used at any level for great results.
Tactic 1 – Stay consistent and patient!
As a clay court is slower than over surfaces because the ball grips the dirt heavily, there is more time to run down shots. So having said that you don’t want to be punching yourself out of the rallies and tiring yourself out too early. Build the point slowly with patience, don’t try to force the issue with brute force. Use your consistency to wear your opponent down. Hit the ball higher over the net and crosscourt more often. The extra net clearance with eliminate potential errors in the net and hitting cross court allows for a longer hitting area.
Tactic 2 – Vary your shot length!
Most players when playing on clay court sit back deep behind the baseline as they are trying to execute tactic 1 above. This is the perfect time to execute angled shots and short slices that stay low. These shot will bring your opponent forward out of their baseline comfort zone. Once out of this position you can play the next ball more penetrating deep to the open pace. This short/deep ball combination will hopefully disturb the rhythm of your opponent causing more errors not only from the combination but possibly from the thought of you using this combination. That is your opponent may go for a shot they don’t necessarily like going for because they don’t what you to play this combination.
Tactic 3 – Sneak into the net rather than approach!
If your opponent sees your coming into the net they will have a lot of time on the clay to hit a solid neutralising ball that will make it very tough for you to volley or worse they will hit it straight passed you at the first time of asking. Net pressure is still a very important tactic on the clay but it must be used sporadically and thoughtfully. If you have hit a deep high ball that has pushed your opponent back and you have noticed over the match that when they are in this position they normally hit a high ball back, you can quickly sneak into the net once the player has put their head down and made their decision. Before they know it you are in the net knocking off an easy volley!
Tactic 4 – Serve wide!
Serving wide will allow for you to hit your second ball into the open space, which will get your opponent running instantly. Once they are running you can continue to move the ball to the space controlling the point. Your opponent will then have to come up with a neutralising ball which if they do you will then revert back to one of the tactics above or they will try to turn the point around into their favour in one shot, which may cause an unforced error and an easy point for you on the board!
Tactic 5 – Return in!
As we have already discussed a clay court is slow. This means even the serve of your opponent will be slower than on other surfaces. That being said there is no reason to miss a return on a clay court! Take a few steps back from your normal returning positions, allow the ball to slow down and then return the ball back somewhat like a normal groundstroke. If you are executing this tactics well you can then look to direct you return to your opponent’s weaker side.
Those of you competing on the clay this summer, try these simple tactics out and I’m sure you will reap some much improved results!