According to Fabio Walker of the North Shore Winter Club, the feet are a tennis player’s secret weapon. To deliver an intimidating, power serve is one thing, but even Milos Raonic and Roger Federer need to pay attention to how their feet respond to different court surfaces.
Fabio believes tennis players of all skill levels should use the ground to propel them into shots. Strong lower legs and joints help players move more quickly from one point to another which increases the amount of returns a player is able to make.
The other aspect of various court surfaces is the behaviour of the ball. When it comes to hard courts, clay and gras courts, the way a ball is hit can have drastically different effects depending on the type of surface.
Here are the pros and cons of hard courts, clay and grass.
Hard tennis courts are the most common playing surfaces used in training facilities and clubs like the North Shore Winter Club. Both the Australian and the US Open use hard court surfaces.
Not only are they durable to handle a large amount of traffic, hard courts deliver predictable results.
“The bounce of the ball is pure and predictable,” says Fabio. Beginner tennis players have an easier time on hard courts because they aren’t surprised by the velocity and direction of a bounced ball.
As the name suggests, hard courts are a less forgiving surface than clay or grass. The ground is harder on lower joints like ankles and knees, meaning tennis players need to make sure they’re warming up properly before a match and paying close to attention to any potential issues related to injury.
In addition to being easier on the body, the ball grips clay surface more than on a hard court. This means players who play from the baseline prefer it because the ball grips the surface and bounces higher, making it easier to achieve an advantageous angle over their opponents. Players facing opponents who employ topspin on their shots enjoy the sharp up-bounce of the ball because there’s more time to react.
The deep red clay courts used in the French Open are more slippery than hard courts and grass surfaces. Players need extra balance and proper sliding techniques in order to keep up with the play. Clay courts are also dirty, as Pete Sampras can attest to. Playing on clay courts means you’ll frequently need to change your gear.
Easy on the body like clay courts, tennis played on grass is a faster overall game. Genie Bouchard recently made tennis history on the grass surface at Wimbledon. The ball bounces quick and benefits players who hit hard. Points don’t last long because the ball sits low and is good for big hitters. Grass also has a degree of unpredictability to it depending on the condition of the grass.
When it comes to grass courts, the pros can also be considered cons. Because of the quick nature of each rally, grass can be a difficult surface on which to learn the game. Grass demands more skill and quicker reaction time. Outdoor grass courts are not often seen in cities with a rainy climate.
The best tennis players on Earth can play on any type of court, though their personal style will certainly excel on a suitable surface. So what about beginners?
Trying new courts will amplify the weaknesses in your game so you’ll know what to improve in order to get even more comfortable on your preferred surface of choice.