View Full Version : Why can't Hewitt do better on clay?
11-21-2004, 09:46 AM
Hewitt has all the making of a great claycourter. Western forehand, fast, counter-punching style and all. Yet he never won the FO and his clay-court result has not been too impressive. Why is that?
Well, he hits a lot of flat balls in his rallies and it doesn't quite go through the court as well as on hard courts or grass. Another factor is that his movement is not superior to true clay courters when he is playing on clay. He doesn't slide into shots as well as Coria or Ferrero for example.
Clay is very difficult surface and unless you have played on it since you were a kid, it is really hard to take a full advantage of it.
On clay, there is no sure footing and I have noticed that he slips and slides all over the court (good example a match vs. Robredo at 2003 RG)
BTW, I think he is improved a lot on clay though, so it is not like he is really really struggling, which used to be the case...
Another thing.. his serve is less effective, both first and second. His kicker is not great, so on clay the ball just stands up for a returner to take a whack at it. His first serve doesn't bring him as many free points...
11-21-2004, 10:39 AM
Well explained Vlad.
1.Indeed, Hewitt has great pure speed but doesn't move as naturally on clay as some specialists, so it equals out more there. Agree also with the serve, Hewitt has just enough pace to do damage with well placed serves on hard courts but not so much on clay.
2.The other thing is spin. Hewitt's shots aren't quite as heavy on average as a lot of the clay courters shots. At the same time, Hewitt doesn't particularly like playing against the heavy spinning clay courters. The ball kicks up heavier and higher and doesn't supply him as much pace either. So, he has to deal with a heavier ball and really generate a lot of power on his own.
That is not to say I don't think he could do well. He should watch some old tapes of Chang. Develop a hybrid clay court/hard court style for the FO.
Hewitt doesn't like heavily spun balls with pace which is his achilles heel. On clay, these shots are amplified just like flatter shots are amplified at Wimbledon. There's a misconception that the clay courters can't bang the ball with the best of 'em, because they don't do well on hard courts. Not true. They can bang the ball as well anyone it's just that more of their energy goes into spin generation which simply isn't as effective on hard courts which favor flatter strokes or medium-top strokes (a la Hewitt and Chang style).
On clay, once these guys get into a rhythm, it's amazing banging...just with more spin is all. These balls will come at you HEAVY which is different from counterpunching against more linear balls that come at you with a flatter trajectory...Hewitt eats these kind of balls up counterpunching. But throw a little curve to the shot, add that he's not that all, add that the clay adds even more curve/bite...and suddenly it's a lot harder to counterpunch/time a looping zinger than it is a linear zinger.
Furthermore, clay courters have longer swings that they don't necessarily have time to execute on hard courts. On clay, you get to see the full effect of their elongated swings take effect. Just look at how much more forcing so many claycourters forehands look when they're on clay and allowed to take the full wind-up and still properly time the ball.
On hard courts, Hewitt isn't naturally powerful, but he's comfortable taking the ball on the rise when he wants to end a point...a play which isn't that effective on clay. He also tends to rely on his opponents pace and the speed of the court to help him achieve more forcing shots on hard. He's one of the few baseliners who play enhanced tennis on faster surfaces. This is because his timing is so good, that he can turn the speed of the court against you in a hurry. On clay, this advantage is neutralized.
On clay, he can be pushed around; because while he's perhaps the best in the world at using your pace against you; he's far from the best when it comes to creating his own pace.
Also, I agree, his kick serve isn't that great...his upper body technique is too rigid, not elastic enough, I feel for a truly great kick serve (think Roddick, Rafter, Edberg, etc.). And his well-placed but not particularly fast first serve also isn't effective on clay, because his pinpoint placement is negated by the fact that the clay slows the ball down allowing the clay courter to still track the ball down with plenty of time. Add that his raw service speed can't compensate, it's a lose-lose proposition for him.
Furthermore, most claycourters don't have great flat serves or slice serves or pinpoint placement; but the one serve which they are imminently comfortable with is the kick serve. It's their bread and butter, and they are masters of using it on clay to set up their big running forehands and to set up the point. Hewitt's serve at its best is designed to set up hard court points, get the player out of position and illicit a short ball he can take on the rise. On clay, the most effective play is a nice kick serve out wide, to set up a heavy inside out forehand that's not designed to end the point so much as it is to body-bruise you over the long haul.
Virtually every claycourter has a natural kick serving motion/feel for the shot, think Costa, Berasategui, etc. It's about their only true effective serve, but it's the one they've developed and used since wee tots.
11-21-2004, 09:31 PM
Hewitt has all the making of a great claycourter.
Thats where your wrong. He hits the ball:
With too little variation
And with too little angle and penetration
He does not have the making of a great claycourter, because of the above reasons.
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