Clay is one of four types of court surfaces used in professional tennis. The clay court is made out of crushed brick, stone or shale. Clay courts are a lot more common in Continental Europe and Latin America when comparing with other regions. Clay courts are much cheaper to construct than other types of tennis courts but the maintenance costs of a clay surface are higher than those of hard courts as the surface must be rolled to preserve flatness. The French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, is held on clay courts.
Playing Charakteristics of Clay Courts
Clay courts slow down the ball and produce a high bounce when compared to grass courts or hard courts. For this reason, the clay court takes away lot of advantage of big serves, which makes it hard for big-serving players to dominate on the surface and tend to heavily favor baseline players who are consistent and are generally more defensive. The slower bounce allows players to return shots they might not otherwise be able to return on a different type of surface, make it more difficult for a player to hit winners and this results into points getting longer. Successful clay court tennis players hits shots with plenty of topspin, which causes the ball to bounce higher once it hits the clay surface. Movement on clay courts is also very different from movement on any other surface and requires the ability to slide into the ball during the stroke, as opposed to running and stopping like on a hard or grass court.
Clay Courts Legends
By winning his seventh Roland Garros title in 2012 Spaniard Rafael Nadal became the unarguably best clay courter of all times but the tennis history knows many outstanding clay court players. There would be names like Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander, Gillermo Vilas or Thomas Muster and Gustavo Kuerten from the more recent history on the top of the list. The best players in the womens competition were Chris Evert, Margaret Court, Steffi Graf, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Monica Seles and also Justine Henin.
Types of Clay Courts
Clay courts have been made in different colours in the past and now there are four different types of clay courts used in professional tennis:
Red has always been the most common and prominent colour of clay courts. It is used mainly in Continental Europe and Latin America and the French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, is also held on red clay courts.
Green clay courts can be found in the United States (primarily in the Eastern and Southern states) and slightly harder and faster than red clay courts. Green clay is often also called Har-Tru or "American" clay. There is currently one WTA Tour event played on green clay courts - the tournament in Charleston. But there was another tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach before it was removed in 2010.
Yellow clay has very similar attributes to red clay and is used as the surface of the ATP Challenger Tour event in Sevilla since 2007.
The father of the idea of blue clay is former tennis player and owner of an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Madrid, Ion Tiriac. Already in 2009 one of the outer courts has already been made of the new material for the players to test it and in 2012 blue clay was used for the ATP World Tour event. According to tournament director Manuel Santana the only difference between blue clay and red clay is the color and everything else is exactly the same but after the tournament we can say that it is lower bouncing and plays clearly faster. Roger Federer and Serena Williams became the first players to win a tournament on blue clay in tennis history by winning the event in 2012. Read more about blue clay in Madrid and what did professional tennis players think about it.