Is Clay Court Tennis the Ultimate Test of Skill and Court Craft?

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Is Clay Court Tennis the Ultimate Test of Skill and Court Craft?

Post by Guest on Tue 13 Jun 2017, 1:30 am

Hi - Is Clay Court Tennis the Ultimate Test of Skill and Court Craft?

Clay court tennis is the slowest version of the game of tennis - the clay surface slows the ball down and slows the players down.  On grass the ball can skid off the surface with a low bounce and pass through the court a lot quicker.  Also, as long as the grass surface isn't slippery, the player can travel more quickly across the surface and change direction more quickly.  Hard courts are rather similar to the grass courts, except they are not slippery.  Players can change directions even more quickly on the hard surface than on grass.  

Taking this into account - it seems to me that it is more difficult to win a point on clay than on any other surface.   That is winning on clay requires the most skill and tactical play: the serve is less effective, power shots are less effective - players have to rely more on skill and tactics in constructing points.

Yet strangely it seems to me, Rafael Nadal, the most successful proponent of the clay court game, is often not given credit for this part of the game (skill and tactics).

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Re: Is Clay Court Tennis the Ultimate Test of Skill and Court Craft?

Post by JuliusHMarx on Tue 13 Jun 2017, 8:10 am

You'd have to define 'skill' first. There is more time to react on clay court, thus less hand-to-eye 'skill' required. And there are very few volleys, which many people regard as an essential tennis 'skill'. Aggressive tactics are less effective, but defensive tactics more effective, but which of those is the 'ultimate' test? Is patience and defence (and possibly thus stamina) more of a 'skill' than a mindset where a player is prepared to take more risks and hit both more winners and more UEs?

It is easier for the server to win a point on grass, but easier for the receiver to win a point on clay.

The court surfaces provide different tests. I doubt any surface can or should be considered the ultimate test. Some players considers clay as dirt, others think grass is for cows.

Perhaps the ultimate test no longer exists - going from the slow clay of RG to the fast grass of Wimbledon. Borg passed that test better than anyone else (yet couldn't win the USO).

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Re: Is Clay Court Tennis the Ultimate Test of Skill and Court Craft?

Post by sirfredperry on Tue 13 Jun 2017, 9:28 am

Sometimes a player's performance is the key, even on a clay court where endeavour and elasticity can often outweigh elan.
   You only have to think of Soderling's performances in 2009 and 2010 when he blew first Rafa and then Fed away at RG. Then there was Stan's display against Djoko in the 2015 final.
   At the weekend we saw another tour de force - from Ostapenko, who decided she was not going to worry about the mounting number of UEs. Rather, she was going to carry on crashing winners until she was victorious.
    I think with the men the 1990s and the early 200s tended to see the clay-court specialists dominate at the French - Bruguera, Moya, Kuerten to name a few.
   Rafa, of course, has been utterly irresistible on clay for more than a decade. But who have been his big rivals on that surface? Well, the answer is the rest of the big five (including Wawrinka in this) who have invariably been his fellow finalists and semi finalists in these tournaments. This seems to suggest that if you're a good player there's nothing to stop you doing well on clay, even if it's not your natural surface.

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Re: Is Clay Court Tennis the Ultimate Test of Skill and Court Craft?

Post by naxroy on Tue 13 Jun 2017, 9:50 am

Well, clay tennis and clay specialists are highly considered in spain, that for sure. For those fans or professionals who dislike clay, they know it represents less than 30% of the season anyway, with hardcourt expanding over 60% and grass almost testimonial were it not for wimbledon.
Of course the three surfaces represent different styles of tennis, and I like them and appreciate them all.
Of course on clay points are bound to be longer, and the player knows he is not going to win the point with the first winner, so it is about moving the opponent, being patient and mentally strong but also having weapons to build points. It is beautiful, but of course it requires longer rallies. Some dislike that as much as some dislike serving fests. ITF has tried to balance the game and avoid both extremes, and people complain too, as they say now its all too similar, as if grass and hard were slower and clay was faster. My thought is that very similar it must not be, considering fot example nadal, federer and nole's achievemnts in one surface and the others. Truth is you cannot win on grass with the same gameplan you have for clay. But it is true though, that nowadays you see almost the same faces in the second week of any slam, and this didnt happen in the 90s. So for sure surfaces have been modified a little, but I am sure other changes have been more definitive than surface itself.

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Re: Is Clay Court Tennis the Ultimate Test of Skill and Court Craft?

Post by barrystar on Tue 13 Jun 2017, 1:00 pm

There is something to be said for all surfaces - each is the 'ultimate test' of the particular aspect of the game which enables players to thrive on the surface.  Whichever it is that one regards as the most elevated aspect of the game probably reveals more about our prejudices than about any measurable quality within the game of tennis - as my preferences below will no doubt do.

Personally, my absolute favourite is grass when the conditions are a bit slower, so that a baseliner like Agassi or Nadal is in with a chance, but judiciously used S&V can pay dividends.  It may sound silly, but when I watch HC matches I can't help feeling uncomfortable as I think of the wear and tear on the players' joints, particularly as the shoes squeak when they meet the resistance of the surfaces - I almost have to look the other way for rubber-legged players like Djoko and Monfils on the stretch.   That said, HC is a great leveler and can produce thrilling passages of play - although I prefer medium to fast conditions.  Similarly, for clay I prefer conditions which help even things out for the the guy who hits hard and flattish vs. heavy topspin.  I don't really have the patience (or probably the knowledge) to sit and watch lengthy point after point being constructed.
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Re: Is Clay Court Tennis the Ultimate Test of Skill and Court Craft?

Post by Guest on Tue 13 Jun 2017, 6:29 pm

Lots of food for thought. Thank you to all.

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