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Transition to Clay Court

Posted on May 23, 2013 in Miscellaneous

Hello all,

The clay court season has started and I am sure for many of you it is not always easy to  transition to a different surface, especially when switching to the famous red clay.

Tennis is a game played on many different surfaces. And many tennis players find it difficult to switch surfaces. The solution is adaption and being open to the change. The more open your approach, the better and easier it will be for you. It is very important to work on your movement. Sliding is a way to get to a ball, but also to stop or terminate a movement before changing direction.

Specific exercises help you to get more confidence in your movement. One of the most important aspects for clay is being balanced. Yes, it is not always easy to keep your balance when sliding towards (or even into) a shot. Recognizing this as a difficulty, it is up to you to do something about it.

Start slowly by implementing the sliding into your warm up routines with a small range of movement first.

PZC_8970Do some movement exercises where you actually have to move around the baseline. Do it without a racquet first, simply sliding into the corners.

  • Then someone else can roll a ball and you have to slide so that the ball goes between your legs
  • If you feel more comfortable do the same exercise including shadow strokes
  • The next step is then to have somebody toss the balls and you have to slide to the ball or even into the shot

Check out this video that explains the exercise above step by step: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HivAFmRWHKw

When doing these exercises it is also important to focus on injury prevention. Learning how to control your body will not only help you to play better clay court tennis, but also keep you away from getting injured.

In general when sliding you should pay attention to the following:

  • Keep your center of gravity lowIMG_2688
  • Don’t bend over to the front when sliding – otherwise you will not be able to keep your balance – especially when sliding forward, i.e. to a drop shot
  • Repetition always helps to get up the confidence in the sliding movement
  • IMG_3128Expect gradual improvement and be patient. It is important to have sliding become a natural movement for you
  • Please note that sliding does not replace getting in position by running up to the ball (especially for children/kids)

Looking at the professional players, it appears to be the easiest thing in the world for them to slide around the courts. But in realty, it is nothing else but hours of hard work.

Upsides of sliding?

  • Sliding has less of an impact on the joints
  • With sliding you can actually retrieve balls that you wouldn’t be able to without

Downsides of sliding?

  • Dangerous if using the wrong technique


All in all, improving your sliding skills on clay will improve your overall body awareness as well. Your game will improve and you will be able to get more balls back.

Feel free to add me on Twitter and ask me questions at any time.

Good luck with practice and have a great clay court season!

Mats Merkel



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