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Yours!05
07-22-2005, 07:00 PM
http://foxsports.news.com.au/story/0,8659,16017128-23216,00.html

Yes, the French should forget hard courts (see below);)
Australia begins clay revolution
By Margie McDonald
July 23, 2005

LLEYTON HEWITT and Alicia Molik will be invited to test a state-of-the-art clay court, which Tennis Australia officials hope will revolutionise and revitalise the game in Australia.

The court is being laid at MelbournePark by French company Avanten. TA will ask Hewitt, Molik, all other Australian ATP and WTA Tour players, former champions, leading coaches, club captains - in fact as many people as possible - to have a hit on the new surface and provide feedback.
"If they like the surface, we'll lay five courts in east Melbourne and then we'll start looking at other facilities," TA's newly appointed director of player development Craig Tilley said.

In the wake of Australia's Davis Cup loss to Argentina on grass last weekend, there has been a push to change the surfaces on which our budding stars are brought up.

The outdoor carpet courts where many juniors learn to play, particularly in Sydney, have been identified as a blight on their development.

Synthetic grass replaced the old anthill and bitumen courts of the 1950s and 1960s. The surface is easy to maintain and easy on the joints for both juniors and recreational players. But because it is not a tournament surface it is of no use in developing elite players.

"Our kids are playing just hit and miss tennis where a rally rarely goes beyond five shots," Bob Giltinan said from his tennis centre in north Manly, on Sydney's northern beaches.

"With clay, kids are going to hit 20 balls in a rally and learn to make a point because constructing the point is what tennis is all about.

"Look at the European players. Their hands are so good they can execute a drop shot in the middle of a baseline rally."

At present, there is one clay court at MelbournePark - home of the Australian Open and one of the centres used by the AIS tennis academy.

But the clay court campaign is underway. There are two Grand Slam standard clay courts at the Sydney International Tennis Centre at Olympic Park, where Hewitt practised in the lead-up to Roland Garros before he withdrew with a cracked rib.

Canberra has 12 courts, Perth 14, Adelaide four and a new $60million centre announced for Brisbane last week will have half-a-dozen clay courts as well as Rebound Ace and grass.

Australia is not the only country turning to clay. About 10 years ago, the French turned to hardcourts but are now ripping those up and returning to clay in a bid to keep quality players coming through the system.

Australia, unlike France, has no clay court history because the surface needs such high maintenance and large volumes of water to keep it at tournament-play standard. Giltinan has nine courts at Manly in Sydney's north - eight synthetic grass and one Rebound Ace. He said he wanted to put down clay but was thwarted by costs.

"Clay courts are a prohibitive cost for tennis centres with all the other demands. They need constant care and maintenance and it's virtually a full-time job," he said.

But new manufacturers have found a more cost-effective, lower-maintenance product that makes the surface just as economical and time efficient as hardcourts.

Avanten and the Perth-based Top Clay are breaking down the barriers of using clay by producing a court with none of the downsides.

"If a court is properly installed, it requires about a third of the amount of time and a third of the amount of water of a grass court," Top Clay co-director Ted Reiss said.

"To maintain them is about 20 minutes per court per week, which is really nothing."

Reiss said there had been misinformation and confusion over clay courts for decades and it needed new technology and uniformity to bring clay courts into the 21st century.

"The culture here is put in a hard court and leave it and nothing happens but they only have a six to eight year life and they have to be re-done," Reiss said. Clay courts had a 50-year life, he added.

Tilley intends to accelerate the clay cause, with the warning that more clay courts is not the sole solution to a lack of depth in Australian tennis. Improved talent identification, coaching and upgraded tennis centres were other areas to be given an overhaul.

"But we do need a national philosophy that clay is a greater tool to teach kids," Tilley said. "It's also better physically, on joints and hips, for recreational players."

There are approximately 2000 tennis centres and clubs in Australia.

"A lot of private facilities make their decisions economically, that's true," Tilley said.

Tilley's assistant Peter Johnston said the materials for the Avanten courts would be sourced in Australia but would use the new European technology.

"It's like Colonel Sanders' 11 secret herbs and spices, but it seems to be all in the mixture and texture of the (four) different levels," Johnston said.

Some do not need convincing about clay.

Tim Wood, manager of the University of Western Australia's SportsPark in Perth, said the centre originally had two clay courts but now has 14 because of demand.

"Initially it was a niche market but it's growing into actual tournaments on clay courts," Wood said.

"Clay helps your ability to think about point construction. And because the points last longer it brings in your fitness and footwork.

"It's brought back a renewed interest in the game."

Hopefully it will bring forward a few more Lleyton Hewitts and Alicia Moliks.

Max G.
07-22-2005, 07:06 PM
Or, rather, it will make Australia into another country of Corias and Nalbandians :(

no more australian serve-volleyers :(

Becky
07-22-2005, 07:18 PM
Even though they use mostly hard courts at the moment, I think they were losing their S&Vers already. Just look at america, there are almost no S&Vers (Dent is one, but...what's one compared to the legions of junior baseliners?), and at least in SoCal, almost all we have is hardcourts.

I think it's a nice move. Or rather, I just wish I got to play on more clay courts. :P

In order to get the old australian S&Vers, you'd need more grass courts. Which was THE major court way back when everyone S&Ved.

christo
07-22-2005, 09:26 PM
Let's go over this again, listen up: a lot of courts in Australia are constructed of outdoor carpet with sand spread lightly over the surface, it's the most bulls### surface you could come up with , a complete waste of space and they ought to be torn up. And Bob Giltinan , who ought to know better is full of it when he talks about the cost of maintaining clay courts. The public park I grew up next to in Melbourne had lovely clay courts

Becky
07-22-2005, 09:57 PM
My mistake, I thought Australia was full of hard courts. Carpet and sand doesn't sound too nice though, in terms of playability. Not that great either since it's not usually the surface used in tournaments/competitive tennis.

I wish the public parks here had clay courts. I do believe they really are high maintenance though, was the park you mentioned in a wealthy area?

Yours!05
07-22-2005, 10:22 PM
Depends where you are. Some places still have grass (lawn) and hard...

More importantly, as the article says, this won't solve the problem of increasingly fewer playersTilley intends to accelerate the clay cause, with the warning that more clay courts is not the sole solution to a lack of depth in Australian tennis. Improved talent identification, coaching and upgraded tennis centres were other areas to be given an overhaul.
"But we do need a national philosophy that clay is a greater tool to teach kids," Tilley said. "It's also better physically, on joints and hips, for recreational players."So is grass.
During Davis Cup commentary, John Alexander stated that Sydney/Brisbane had lost 300 (or 600?) tennis courts, type unspecified, in the last ten years. Said there were several reasons for this, but Real Estate value was #1. If anyone heard anything else please chime in...

AndrewD
07-23-2005, 01:28 AM
Let's go over this again, listen up: a lot of courts in Australia are constructed of outdoor carpet with sand spread lightly over the surface, it's the most bulls### surface you could come up with , a complete waste of space and they ought to be torn up. And Bob Giltinan , who ought to know better is full of it when he talks about the cost of maintaining clay courts. The public park I grew up next to in Melbourne had lovely clay courts

That's a bit aggressive and not actually correct. Giltinan is talking about clay - real clay- not en tous cart which is what we had (and still have) throughout Melbourne (not real clay). While a very nice surface to play on, much better for your game and easier on your body it is more expensive to maintain - at a well utilised tennis centre- than hard court or synthetic grass.

Of course, I agree with your sentiments as regards synth grass (or mod grass, whatever you like to call it). In another recent thread, when someone asked about it -as a possible surface for their home- I said that you wouldnt find one Australian on this board who likes it. Absolute waste of time and can be very dangerous as well. Todd Woodbridge considered them the 'cancer of Australian tennis' and, while I wouldn't go that far, I think they've proven to be an enormous blunder (perhaps a reason why so many good juniors are coming out of Queensland where the surface isn't popular).

Yours!05,
That sentiment of Alexander's has been going around for more than 50 years and is actually mentioned in the Harry Hopman book, 'Aces and Places'. Probably all happened in Melbourne before my time but since moving to Brisbane I've seen a lot of houses with double blocks that utilised the second block for a tennis court. Housing prices up here have jumped in the last few years - and estimated to keep rising- and that second block is the first thing to go. We've lost 8 courts in our local area in the last 10 months. The other major factor, linked to land prices, is the number of churches that used to have courts. As land became more valuable they sold off the land and those public access courts were lost.

Becky,
You weren't wrong. According to the TCA and industry reps there are more hardcourts (rebound ace, plexi-pave, ashphalt) in Australia than any other surface. Second are dirt courts (en tous cart) and third is synthetic grass.

Marius_Hancu
07-23-2005, 01:58 AM
Good idea, good timing.

tennis4losers
07-23-2005, 10:50 AM
I wish there were more clay here in the US. Clay is fun to play on but also gets very messy

christo
07-23-2005, 01:14 PM
My mistake, I thought Australia was full of hard courts. Carpet and sand doesn't sound too nice though, in terms of playability. Not that great either since it's not usually the surface used in tournaments/competitive tennis.

I wish the public parks here had clay courts. I do believe they really are high maintenance though, was the park you mentioned in a wealthy area?
Blue collar neighborhood, Becky. If that's Oz's excuse for not building a decent tennis court then they really are a declining tennis power, if it was swilling beer as a sport the Aussies would win hands down.

federerhoogenbandfan
07-23-2005, 03:15 PM
I think hard courts are actually the best surface to develop a young players foundation and skills. A great hard court player with a true all around game, has a better chance to develop into an effective clay or grass court player as well; vs a clay courter to hard and grass; or grass to hard and clay. Just my opinion.

Rodzilla
07-23-2005, 03:25 PM
I think hard courts are actually the best surface to develop a young players foundation and skills. A great hard court player with a true all around game, has a better chance to develop into an effective clay or grass court player as well; vs a clay courter to hard and grass; or grass to hard and clay. Just my opinion.

I agree with you fedhbfan. What I'm thinking of is whether America will follow Australia's clay revolution?

AndrewD
07-23-2005, 07:26 PM
I think hard courts are actually the best surface to develop a young players foundation and skills. A great hard court player with a true all around game, has a better chance to develop into an effective clay or grass court player as well; vs a clay courter to hard and grass; or grass to hard and clay. Just my opinion.

Fed,
the opinion of coaches is that it's the other way around. They believe it easier to transition a clay-court player to hard courts or even grass than a hard court player to clay. Their thinking is that clay develops the player's ability to construct points whereas hardcourts or faster surfaces encourage a more 'wham-bam' type of mentality. I don't totally disagree with them but think the main thing is having a lot of competition on the different surfaces so the kids are forced to develop all aspects of their game. Even Sampras ran into problems when he hit the clay whereas Wilander, Mecir, Edberg, Stich and Ivanisevic (to name just a few) could win on anything. Personally, I think the old surface we used to have -en tous cart- which was a medium paced dirt court was far better. It required you to develop patience but it did also reward the attacking player. Plus, it was was very kind on the body.

Regardless, I don't think court surface is really the key ingredient. What we need and what America needs is to get more of the better athletes playing tennis. Ours go to Aussie Rules, Rugby, Cricket and Basketball. Theirs go to Gridiron, Baseball and Basketball. That didn't happen so much in the 'old days'. Snag a few of those guys and it would make a world of difference.

As for 'our' drinking prowess, Im sure we'd give it a good shake but I think there's little doubt the Germans would take first, second and third place LOL. Christo, are you Australian or American?

Yours!05
07-23-2005, 07:31 PM
As for 'our' drinking prowess, Im sure we'd give it a good shake but I think there's little doubt the Germans would take first, second and third place LOL. Christo, are you Australian or American?Andrew, normally you are never wrong, so you must've just forgotten the Irish - #1.

verdasco67
07-23-2005, 08:39 PM
australia has a few good clay courters at the moment........James Lemke ITF # 59, Stephen Donald ITF #50,

verdasco67
07-23-2005, 08:40 PM
juniors i mean...

nswelshman
07-24-2005, 12:33 AM
I think this is a good idea. If you can teach footwork, fitness, strong mentality and point construction for a couple of hours on clay, then move the kids over to the hard courts and teach them the value of getting free points on serve, you can really develop some solid players.

It would be nice if the people at tennis NSW who own the clay courts at the sydney tennis centre actually let people hit on them other than just the australian team players...its one thing having the courts there, its another to keep them under padlock 7 days a week...

Fantoro
07-24-2005, 02:46 AM
Yes, and James Lemke grew up playing on en-tous-cas...at Grace Park...Matter of fact I saw him play today in state Grade and he was very impressive. But he's not the only one making his mark with a clay (ish) backgroud which is 95% of the courts surface in Melbourne.

Yours!05
07-24-2005, 02:53 AM
Yes, and James Lemke grew up playing on en-tous-cas...at Grace Park...Matter of fact I saw him play today in state Grade and he was very impressive. But he's not the only one making his mark with a clay (ish) backgroud which is 95% of the courts surface in Melbourne.I've played on en-tous-cas (of course),do you know what the essential differences with red clay might be - esp as far as training junior prospects?

AndrewD
07-24-2005, 03:32 AM
Andrew, normally you are never wrong, so you must've just forgotten the Irish - #1.

Your right, I did forget the Irish but Id stick with my original ranking- which should give you an idea how much the Germans love their beer LOL. Most beer consumed per capita of any country in the world and by quite a considerable margin I believe. Not sure if that includes stout which would, no doubt, penalise the Irish LOL.

Yours,
Red clay - the type they have in Europe- is considerably slower than en tous cart. Much finer covering that we use out here but a lot nicer to slide on (playing on Rebound Ace I really miss sliding into my shots).

One of my strongest memories of playing on en tous cart is the way the lines become raised when the courts need to be re-surfaced. Sometimes the ball would hit the line and deviate about 90 degrees in the wrong direction LOL. You'd end up specifically aiming your shot -especially the serve- at the bolts because it almost always guaranteed an unreturnable shot.

Steve Williams
07-25-2005, 02:06 AM
When people now talk about 'clay' there are a variety of surfaces they might be talking about. There is 'quick dry' canadian clay and then there is 'classic clay' which, as far as I can make out, consists of a clay-like infill on top of carpet. (See www.classicclay.com). Do any of our Australian buddies know anything about this? I believe it started in Australia.

AndrewD
07-25-2005, 02:23 AM
When people now talk about 'clay' there are a variety of surfaces they might be talking about. There is 'quick dry' canadian clay and then there is 'classic clay' which, as far as I can make out, consists of a clay-like infill on top of carpet. (See www.classicclay.com). Do any of our Australian buddies know anything about this? I believe it started in Australia.

Steve,
If you do a search for posts on 'classic clay' you'll find a couple by Equinox from down in Melbourne. I gather he's had a bit of experience with that surface. If you can't find it, post up a query for him and Im sure he'll be happy to help out.

As far as I can gather, from reading a recent Australian Tennis Magazine, 'classic clay' was developed by a firm that makes synthetic grass courts. It is only an advertising blurb but they do mention it was developed 8 years ago by an Australian court manufacturer and, as you say, consists of "a dense synthetic grass layer underneath and a two millimetre layer of infill that gives the characteristics of a traditional clay court".

Regardless of its playing properties the one thing they have got right is that we, in Australia, do need to look to surfaces that take into account the frequent drought conditions we experience. A surface that requires constant watering just isn't going to be practical for a lot of areas and it would be silly to switch over to a surface that doesn't allow for frequent water restrictions and our need for water conservation.

Possibly a better idea to have no national surface but each state to decide on the one that fits best with their climate. Then the kids could get experience in playing on a wide variety of surfaces and not just the one. The French have hard courts in some regions and clay in others. As a result they produce players who are adaptable and don't play one style only. Food for thought, I say.

Destructo
07-25-2005, 02:43 AM
I think it's great that they want to build more clay courts in Australia. I feel as though it really helps the fundamentals of a player's groundstrokes. I play in Melbourne Park all the time and train on the clay court there most of the time. I'm not sure just what kind of clay it is. It has a layer of crushed brick on the surface. Perhaps someone on here could give me some insight on the types of clay courts there are.

woodie55
07-25-2005, 02:52 AM
Played on both classic clay and en tous cart. Classic clay is a finer grain than en tous cart and in my opinion plays slower than e-t-c but not significantly so(sorry but will get sick of typing en tous cart so made it e-t-c. Will make classic clay c-c). E-t-c needs to be bagged and watered after each set (esp in summer) whereas classic clay does not need water (according to the place that I played at) but needs bagging. Given the extensive drought conditions prelevant in Australia at the moment it does not look very good when you see people pouring water on a tennis court. From what I have been told c-c requires far less maintenance than e-t-c. E-t-c tends to dissapear in windy conditions ie gets blown away whereas c-c does not as much. From my experience c-c seems softer on the joints and this is probably the carpet. From my understanding and I may be wrong but aren't European clay courts on some sort of carpet surface. Certainly the courts at Roland Garros seem to be when you look at the lines they seem to be part of the court and not tape. And just for the record I play on synthetic grass fairly regularly and I do not think that they are all that bad. The bounce is reasonable and they do allow you to slide. The main problem is with them if you come over the carpet burns can be fairly nasty and they can require fairly high maintenance. But apart from that give me synthetic grass any day over Plexiplave or that Rebound Ace crap. Someone connected with Tennis Australia must have had shares in the Rebound Ace company when they chose that surface as that's the only reason I can think of why they were chosen ahead of other surfaces.

Steve Williams
07-25-2005, 04:34 AM
Dear Aussies

Many thanks for your insights about Classic Clay. I wonder whether having an 'official line' on the best surface is useful. I agree with others who say that a tennis player will be called upon to play on varied court surfaces and so should strive to have an all-court game. Different surfaces can all play their part in developing this. At our club we have natural grass and, though it is frowned on by the tennis authorities, it is popular with young players who want to develop their volleying by playing doubles on grass. We like to accomodate them of course. Yet developing an all-court game is not just about surfaces. Bill Tilden wrote the following in 1950 and it still applies today: 'Too great publicity on victory, and not enough appreciation for the sound, complete artist, has built up a fear of immediate defeat in many of our young players, so they are not willing to work slowly towards a real goal' (ie all court competence). Tennis A-Z by Bill Tilden. This applies whatever your 'home suface'. In Britain, to get up the rankings and into elite training groups young people have to win, win, win. This can hinder their all-round development, a fact that some tennis officials prefer to ignore in their anxiety to develop 'winner' mindsets in young players. How often have I heard coaches telling confused young players they must learn how to 'kill the game' when ahead as if they are talking to little grand slam champs.


I feel that official policies on things like court surfaces are often part of national panics about not producing the next generation of world-class players. Clubs usually get the blame either for playing too much social tennis or having the 'wrong' surface or some other stuff. Raising future champions is a good aim but there is also a job to be done getting people hooked on playing a reasonable game of tennis for life. Synthetic grass can play a part.

One important point that most of you mention is climate change. The water we use on our grass courts is quite rightly metered and our bills are growing every year. Perhaps something like classic clay is worth trying out. I will look into it. Thanks again.

PS. One salutary tale from Britain about officially prescribed court surfaces: for a while in the 90s, the LTA recommended acrylic courts because they were thought to encourage good stroke play. They overlooked the fact that Britain has a rainy climate and impervious acrylic courts don't cope with water at all well. Many impervious acrylics have now been replaced well before the end of their life span. A waste of resources I'd say.

equinox
03-06-2006, 05:52 AM
Classic Clay is worth evaluating for any club considering replacing there en-taut-cas courts.

There's many clubs in melbourne who have now switched over to CC in the last few years.

Most of the clubs switched because of the water restrictions facing victoria and increasing court maintenance costs, with many courts over 40 years old and the under surface breaking up.

Many of these clubs have received government grants and water authority discounts to help fund these new CC courts.

Heatherton and i think burwood tc have made the switch. Contact Tennis Victoria and they should have a list of CC courts where people can demo the CC surface.

CC Courts cost $35k+ to install and takes time to settle down.

Now my opinon on the surface is mixed and possibly not representative on how the surface would finally play once settled down. The CC courts were 2 months old.

CC surface is great for older players and players with lower body injuries. It's really easy on the legs. A good choice for coaching.

It took me some adjusting to the court speed.

The bounce was consistent and slightly lower than en-taut-cas. There was no problem seeing the lines clearly.

CC court speed was signficantly slower than en-taut-cas and many times i'd be preparing to play a shot and miss time my stroke.

An example, someone could hit a high pace shot towards you and once it hit the surface the ball wouldn't follow through the same distances as en-taut-cas. So you'd back up give yourself more time and suddenly have to leap foward to play the ball.

I was hitting many dropshot winners on CC because the the ball just dies.

Sliding for balls was comparable to en-taut-cas and shouldn't take much adjustment.

Overall I liked the surface and especially loved the way it looked and low maintenance and quickness to play again after rain.

My only real criticism is the court speed and perhaps the cost.:-|

NoBadMojo
03-06-2006, 06:09 AM
I can heartily agree that the synthetic grass with the sand swept in really blows as a tennis surface. In the US, I believe it is called OmniCourt. I had the displeasure of playing on it a few times. Unless perfectly maintained it is very dangerous as if the sand is uneven there are places on the court where you can slide just like on clay, and places where you get the opposte effect..you stick. bounces are erratic and the balls kids and stay low and it';s hardon your lower back. it's similar to how old time grass plays and maybe thats why the Aussies chose it?
HarTRu is a great surface which you can set up to play almost like a hardcourt. Additionally, we would have feweer injuries on tour if some events were played on the stuff. There used to be a whole summer season of HarTru events in the US years ago. I think we need more players playng on it here, as we can't compete with the dirtballers. The new HydraCourt, while more expensive to install requires much less water and is more automatic, so maintenance costs are less. The new clay the euros has developed seems intrguing..hope it's not all smoke and mirrors