Bear Mountain Tennis Centre
“Play the Clay”
Bear Mountain Tennis Centre
As the most played on surface in the world you have to experience clay to understand why. Be sure to take advantage of Bear Mountain’s beautiful red clay courts – get out there and kick up a little dust!
The origins of the red clay court
Thought to be an invention of the British, the clay court came to be near the end of the 19th century. A man by the name of William Renshaw, giving tennis lessons on grass courts in the south of France in Cannes, became frustrated at how harsh the sun was on the grass – causing it to burn and lose its luster. In an effort to protect the grass, Renshaw decided to cover it with a thin layer of red powder obtained from grinding down the rejects of the clay pots manufactured in the nearby town of Vallauris.
Use of modern clay courts started in the mid-1900s when clubs and homes used locally available clay, or ground up brick, as surface material that caused a considerable variation in the way tennis balls played from court to court.
There are two types of clay courts: red clay courts are made from crushed brick, and green clay courts are made from a crushed basalt, which is volcanic rock. The use of clay courts is much more common in Europe and South America.
Rather than natural clay, almost all red clay courts are made of crushed brick, packed down, then covered with a topping of loose crushed particles. True natural clay courts are rare as the surface does not absorb water easily and can take two to three days to dry.
In an effort to address the drainage problem of pure clay, a crushed brick surface was introduced by a British firm in 1909. The crushed brick court then spread through Europe in the 1920s and became known as a fast-dry surface allowing more water to run through resulting in quicker drying time after a rain. This court played similarly to natural clay despite its considerably more granular appearance. In France, Spain and Italy, fast-dry surfaces were generally more shallow, consisting of powdered brick or red sand, which made them appear more like natural clay surfaces.
Play on red clay is slower, making for a brand of tennis that is less direct and more tactical – a veritable game of chess, where a certain shot can lead to a conclusion four or five “moves” later. It also brings out spin and use of lobs and drop shots. All of these subtleties come to the fore, while in terms of movement it is of paramount importance for players to learn how to slide effectively.
And while play on clay may be more demanding physically due to longer points, clay is the most forgiving of surfaces – protecting the joints and limiting the risk of injury which makes it ideal for any level of player, from the earnest amateur to the top pro.
WHY IT’S GREAT TO PLAY ON CLAY
One of the greatest benefits is to your long-term health!
With clay courts the granular surface acts as a shock absorbing cushion, preventing joint jarring stops and changes in direction. Recent studies have revealed that there are 85% fewer injuries on clay surfaces as opposed to hard surfaces. We would all like to play this game we love for a long time and clay will allow you to play more frequently with less soreness and pain and most importantly, for a lifetime. So, with your fitness and health in mind spend more time on the clay!
Another benefit to clay is the surface’s playing characteristics.
The clay surface slows down the ball when it bounces resulting in longer rallies and points. This change of pace requires a player to develop their shot selection, tactics, and strategies, and promotes endurance, concentration and patience. This helps players develop a greater variety of strokes and a more controlled and thoughtful game. The rise of European and South American players on the Pro Tour can be mostly attributed to their development on clay surfaces. Tennis Canada and the USTA are now encouraging their most promising players to train primarily on clay in order to develop a fully rounded game.
Here are a few tips when playing on clay
- Come prepared to play longer points. You will be able to get to balls on clay that you wouldn’t have been able to on hard courts.
- Stay adequately hydrated – drink water!
- Activate early by doing dynamic stretching prior to play.
- It really does make a difference playing in court shoes designed specifically for clay – shoes made for play on clay give you better footing specific to this surface. If you are looking to pick up some clay court shoes, talk to the experts in the Golf and Tennis Pro Shop.
- The use of polyester strings is becoming more and more popular because of their durability, spin production, and the bonus of playability on clay. Natural gut and synthetic strings will quickly dry out and start to crack when coming into contact with the clay, causing them to lose their feel and effectiveness. Polyester strings will not dry out or crack which gives them great long lasting playability. Just make sure to string them lower than your usual strings as the lower tension will help you draw more power from your racket, be easier on your arm and you won’t have to work as hard. Due to the slower game, you will be “counter-punching” less and “hitting-out”, along with hitting more balls per point. A lower tension in your racket will help!
- Some balls will slow down and get a bit heavier as they pick up clay during play, especially after the courts have been watered and on damp days. For this reason, select balls designed specifically for clay which have less felt. “Extra Duty” balls are better on hard courts because they last longer, but due to thicker felt, they pick up a lot of clay and get heavier.
- Be sure to clean your shoes of all the clay after you play. Mats, brushes, and foot sprays, are there for your use. Bring along a second pair of shoes and switch out of your clay shoes when you come off the courts. Let’s keep our Resort beautiful and free of clay. See you on the courts!
Be sure to clean your shoes of all the clay after you play. Mats, brushes, and foot sprays, are there for your use. Bring along a second pair of shoes and switch out of your clay shoes when you come off the courts. Let’s keep our club beautiful and free of clay.
See you on the courts! “Play the Clay”!