Generally, clay specialists are known for their good consistency, heavy topspin balls, endless patience and physical endurance, they’re to many the most annoying type of players out there.
Nevertheless, many all-round players won the French Open. They learnt to adapt and understood the value of accustoming their training to the clay rules, and most interestingly, kept their style of play by approaching the game tactically in a very aggressive way.
In the modern game, the traditional clay court tactic of staying behind the baseline and waiting for unforced errors from the opponent is no longer sustainable to the flashy pace.
Nowadays, players are able to hit 160 km/h forehands from 3 meters behind the baseline and do all sorts of shots and dictate them aggressively from any court position while using some of the clay court principles.
Here are 8 tips for you to have a more fierce game on clay:
#1 Work on your Movement
Successful sliding on clay is attained by keeping the center of gravity low and staying balanced especially in wide stances throughout the shot execution, which will permit you a much better recovery and precise shot making.
#2 Train your Force, Endurance and Flexibility
Long rallies will require from you a maintainable force-endurance level to be able to swing strong 1st serves in strenuous 3rd sets and not give up on running to any ball until the last point. So you have to get used to returning all the out balls during practice and perform specific exercises that heat up these physical qualities on a clay court, in a 40°C day including real game situations and intensity.
Flexibility also is an indispensable physical quality since you need to reach out for the wide balls and conserve energy with wide stances and lesser small steps.
#3 Stick Close to the baseline
Make sure you take your balls inside the court so that you cut time from your opponent to react and position himself, stay in control until an attacking chance occurs and don’t be afraid of getting to the net and finish off the rallies on your term.
#4 Be Patient
Patience is the ultimate both tactical and mental quality to every player that wants to win more on this surface.
So following the principle of building the point brick by brick with heavy topspin is the way to go until you create that short ball you were looking for to take the initiative and strike your best shot at a favorable and safe opportunity.
But patience also means tolerating your unforced errors and unsuccessful risky executions and stick to the main strategy that is going to tire out your opponent’s great form in small doses.
#5 Attack your opponent’s movement
Attack your opponent’s movement and makehim run everywhere in the court by varying the depth and effect of the ball with topspin, slices and occasional drop-shots.
Use all the court areas especially the ones where he misses the most.
Play wrong-foot shots to keep your opponent off balance.
Work on opening the court by using the angles and hitting close to the sidelines.
#6 Neutralize the Heavy serves with deep Returns
Make sure you keep your returns deep and with a good trajectory.
Returning to the opponent’s feet or to the sides with high topspin balls like Nadal does it is very painful for many especially for one handed backhand players who are slow on moving forward inside the court or have difficulties controlling the ball early just after the bounce, that way you neutralize the serve and turn the rally instantly to your favor.
#7 Serve mostly wide
Serve 70 % wide, this will enable you to take full control of the rally and finish off points in 2 or 3 shots by playing to the open court or behind the opponent then closing the deal with an easy put-away volley.
#8 Hardy State of Mind
The toughest best of 5 sets matches are mostly played on clay, with many turnovers and ups and downs during the battle, so you have to be mentally tough and willing to be an error-tolerant player by trying to find the right solutions until the last match point.