The frustration of French tennis is the color of red clay

PARIS – The highlight of the French Open is that the Grand Slam takes place in the rusty red clay of Roland Garros, a lovely feature that is as much a part of local culture and tradition as bouquinists selling art and used books. During the senate.

And yet, as is often the case in the country that claims Albert Camus and Simone de Beauvoir, the relationship between France and its “terre bateau” is a little more complicated.

Oise, in the north of Paris, this red clay from a small brick factory creates so much love.

“My favorite surface,” said Stéphane Levy, a lifelong member of the Paris Tennis Club, a favorite spot for some of the country’s most important players, including Gilles Simon and Corentin Moutet, where eight of the 18 courts are made of the same clay. Like the Roland Garros.

“I don’t feel like playing in that,” Levy said. “Slip when the clay of your body is sweating.”

But clay has also become a symbol of deep frustration. A Frenchman has not only won the individual championship, a country that is so treasured that it requires more enthusiasm than any other, but also more thought, Mary Pierce in 2000. A Frenchman has not won in 39 years, Yannick Noah in 1983. The last of the men’s and women’s Frenchmen were left out of the individual championships on Saturday.


The answer probably has a lot to do with a central contradiction in the home of the biggest stage of the red clay. Only 11.5 percent of French tennis courts are made of traditional red clay and most are in private clubs. The other 16.5 percent of the courts are made of a clay-like surface, similar to terre bateau, but plays harder and faster than traditional softer clay.

Keeping red clay in cold, humid weather, for much of the year that is common in France, is almost impossible, and it is expensive to build indoor sets for them. So most French tennis players dominate the hard courts, unlike their Spanish counterparts, where the warm weather and red clay Rafael Nadal (who won five sets on Sunday) and several Spaniards who dominated before him were Roland Garros.

It is normal for top tennis players to compete on different surfaces as it is normal for tennis fans to be as vague and tidy as their hands, but it is one of the great curiosities of the sport. Imagine for a second you were transposed into the karmic driven world of Earl 70%. That’s basically what professional tennis players do, they spend the first three months on the hard courts, the next two on the clay, about six weeks on the grass, and then most of the rest of the year on the hard courts.

Although the surfaces have been more similar in recent years, each requires a unique set of skills and creates a very different style of play.

Grass and clay are at the ends, with grass being the fastest of the three surfaces.

Clay is the slowest. The ball comes out of the dirt and hangs in the air for an extra second, allowing players to catch up with it and extend the rallies, forcing them to play a more tactical style, grinding from the baseline.

Watch pro pro tennis for one hour on each surface. If you cut all the time between points, playing real tennis clay takes about 13 minutes, according to various studies of the sport’s energy and effort. This is significantly more so than on other surfaces, where the returning player is at a more serious disadvantage and may be struggling to get the ball back into play.

Hard courts are at the halfway point and require roughly the entire game.

Among professionals, red clay is loved and loaded.

“I don’t like it very much,” said Russian Daniil Medvedev, the world’s second-largest male player, who struggled for years to win a game at the French Open and reached the fourth round on Saturday.

Australian Nick Kyrgios has no land use and completely skips the clay track season. Iga Swiat, a Polish woman in first place in the world, would spend her entire career slipping around if she could.

It takes a doctorate to win in the clay. what coaches and players call “point construction,” which is the abbreviation for playing tennis like chess, not only in this next shot, but also in the three shots down the line. It can take years to learn that instinct, and as with most things, the sooner your brain starts training to think that way, the better.

“On clay, the fight continues unabated,” said Aurelio Di Zazzo, coach of the Paris Tennis Club. “The longer the effort, the more you have to use your head.”

The club, less than a mile from Roland Garros, tries to carry the red clay torch as best it can. That torch is not cheap. Maintaining the court requires four full-time employees, and the new clay costs more than $ 2,000 a year for each court. Each court must be completely drilled and renovated every 15 years, costing more than $ 30,000 per court.

Levy said it was worth it.

“This clay is a part of France,” he said.

The French tennis federation agrees. The organization also wants a French Open individual champion. A new plan to promote tennis in the “terre bateau” is scheduled to be announced in July. Maybe that can help.

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