All those different 'clay' surfaces of old.

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by BTURNER, Oct 29, 2013.

  1. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    galain mentioned yet another kind of 'clay' made of termite mounds in Australia, now I count about four that former players might have played on.

    "I come from melbourne and now live in Europe. En tous cas and (at least) European clay are 2 quite different surfaces. yes - you slide on both of them, but the playing characteristics are not all that similar.

    In Australia, a lot of courts are referred to as 'clay' when they aren't. I wouldn't be surprised if Evonne Cawley grew up on crushed termite mounds - a popular 'clay' surface in the country areas. Perhaps technically en tous cas is a clay surface, but it doesn't really behave the same way as the stuff here in Europe."

    He's not being specific enough, how beyond the Har-Tru vs Red clay we have already talked about?

    We have traditional European crushed brick clay of RG, Berlin and Rome, Har-Tru rubico crushed basalt clay on the American courts, en tous cas clay derived from crushed brick, invented in the early part of the twentieth century and then these former insect homes or 'antbed' clay. What surfaces did former players learn on?
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2013
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  2. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    When one looks upon the RG record book over the period starting WWII till now, one finds much more aussies than one could expect given their dominance of grass, the polar opposite of clay.Americans fared much worse at RG with the exception of Agassi,Chang ( two baseliners) and Trabert, and let me add Connors as a great cc ( har tru) player.But that is 4 guys at most compared to Laver,Rosewall (cc king ), Rose,Hoad,Emmo,Roche,Stolle and even Newcombe won the Italian and German which are the next two big events to RG played on the dirt.

    There must be a big influence from what he posted.
     
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  3. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Found this article while trying to research of the surfaces of an Aussie pro tour in '57. It's from '53, and it says that Australian "hardcourts" (the old term for clay courts) are faster than European claycourts: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/18510292.
     
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  4. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Its also to be said the the European clay courts were (and are) very different, according to venue and weather. Rome changed between very slow in the 60s to quite fast Courts in the 90s, which had very little sand on the surface and played as fast as billard tables. Roland Garros got more speed in the 80s, to enhance French darlings like Noah and Leconte. Hamburg was often very damp and cold, and the ball played quite slow and low. Even the Courts at RG played differently. The Central Court was always faster than Court Lenglen or the Bull Ring, which had a unique atmosphere due to his circle form.
     
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  5. galain

    galain Hall of Fame

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    I didn't realise this message followed on from another post I'd made. Here I am, 2 years later and hopefully BTURNER is still somewhere out there and will see this.

    When I mentioned 'European clay' I oversold myself - sorry about that. I've only played on German clay courts, so i can't really speak about the clay found in France, Spain or other parts of Europe.

    Similarly, I've only played on en tous cas courts in Queensland and in Victoria - so I can't say without a doubt that all en tous cas courts in Australia play the same way.

    Something that I didn't make clear in my 2013 post is that the ant-bed courts I referred to are not necessarily en tous cas. These ant bed courts were common in rural Australia. Suburban Australia is distinctly lacking in termite mounds! It could be that en tous cas contained some ant bed material in them, but I can't say for sure. I believe en tous cas is mainly coarse loam and crushed rock.

    To the best of my knowledge, I've never played on an ant-bed court before (unless of course, this is part of the en tous cas mix used in Qld and/or Victoria). I'll limit my discussion to 'normal' en tous cas.

    The main difference between en tous cas and German clay is the speed and the feel of the surface underfoot.

    German clay plays significantly more slowly than the Aussie en tous I'm familiar with, although the height of the bounce is very similar, perhaps a little higher on the German stuff

    It is also a lot less slippery underfoot. I feel much steadier and more sure of my footing on German clay than I ever did on en tous cas. It's easier to stop, pivot and change direction. En tous cas (at least in my experience) doesn't give you that luxury. You don't get as much opportunity to hustle back into a rally if you're out of position. The faster ball also adds to this.

    En tous cas looks like it's a much bigger grain than German clay, which really is a fine powder. When the courts are wet, en tous cas retains it's bounce a lot more than German clay does. The ball can really just die on this stuff in the rain.

    That's about all I can comment on. Funnily enough, I seem to volley the same on both surfaces!
     
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  6. galain

    galain Hall of Fame

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    Oh - if you're ever in Oz looking to hit on one of these courts, you may want to try pronouncing it the Aussie way -

    "ontika/onnika".....
     
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  7. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    Goolagong supposedly learn first to play on 'clay' courts in Barellan in Narrandera Shire in the Riverina region of New South Wales. 300 plus miles from Sydney. You can't get much more rural than that so those would be the antbed stuff, right?

    Mragaret Court was born in 1942 in Albury, New South Wales and I can't find out where she got her first experience on clay. She lived across the street from grass courts.

    Laver was born and spent early years in Rockhampton , a city and local government area in Queensland, Australia. lying on the Fitzroy River, approximately 45 kilometres (28 mi) from the river mouth, and some 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of the state capital, Brisbane. No clue what kind of courts he learned to play on or if he had any early time sliding on clay.

    As for Muscles, I will quote the a paragraph from Wiki.

    "Rosewall was born on 2 November 1934 in Hurtsville, Sydney. His father, Robert Rosewall, was a grocer and when Ken was one year old they moved to the Rockdale suburb where his father bought three clay tennis courts.[4] Ken started playing tennis at age three with a shortened racket and using both hands for forehand and backhand shots.[5] They practiced early in the morning, focusing on playing one type of shot for a period of weeks. He was a natural left-hander but was taught to play right-handed by his father. He played his first tournament when he was nine and lost to the eventual winner. At age eleven Rosewall won the Metropolitan Hardcourt Championships for under fourteen.[6] In 1949 at age 14 he became the junior champion at the Australian Hardcourt Championships in Sydney, the youngest player to win an Australian title.[7][8]

    So this guy played on some sort of clay from the outset and got his first taste of success on either en tous cas or those unique crushed anthills.

    So my theory that these Aussies had more dirt experience than we now presume, is not sufficiently proven across the board.
     
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  8. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Laver took his first steps on a home court at his father's home in Queensland on an antbed court. One night he woke up to see the Coach Charlie Hollis there, and in his underwear had a few hits with him. It was the beginning of his career.
    In India they played on another natural surface, stemming from the cows. Don't know, if we can call it clay.
     
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  9. galain

    galain Hall of Fame

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    At a guess, I would think Evonne Goolagong played on an antbed court when she was young.

    I grew up in the suburb next to Rockdale and used to play on a private court that was some kind of 'clay'. I was very young at the time and it made no difference to me what sort of court it was - could have also been sand, which I've seen used in Australia to surface a court.

    I lived in Rockhampton for 4 years. There was everything there from antbed to concrete to plexipave to grass. The wealthy private homes I knew of that had their own tennis courts had grass courts.
     
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  10. galain

    galain Hall of Fame

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  11. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Thanks galain for all your info. Have any idea what venue in Rockhampton might have been used for the visits by the Kramer pros?

    In '57 they played there outdoors on a Wednesday night, here's a couple of short reports:

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=A9BYAAAAIBAJ&sjid=yOQDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4501,1293416

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=1YYQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=EpUDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2109,562869

    The venue could have been any number of places, of course, since the Kramer pros often set up wherever they could. Just wondering if any venues spring to mind for you.
     
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  12. galain

    galain Hall of Fame

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    No idea - sorry mate. I was in the middle of my 'squash years' at that stage and didn't play a lot of tennis at all. A few times on the university courts (concrete) and a few times at the abovementioned private homes in the 'better' part of Rocky when I was trying to win the heart of a theatre major.

    Didn't work!

    Interestingly enough, my roommate at the time was a student who shared a lecture with Rod Laver's niece, Nicky. I never got to meet her myself.
     
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  13. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    You have been very helpful indeed, galain, at filling in gaps I just could not fill with my feeble google searches.

    My gut has always told me that those great Aussies must have had some solid experience as a youth, with unique footwork and groundstrokes so successful on clay, long before they stepped foot in Europe, because there was a disparity between how quickly and well they adjusted as opposed to most American players who seem to take much longer. There is an instinct, like riding a bike, to playing on clay.

    Now we know that Rosewall, Goolagong and Laver were exposed to clay tennis even earlier than grass.

    I am betting Maggie must somehow have gotten similar time in her development. She reached the QF in her first RG in 1961 and then won the tournament the next two years. Wendy Turnbull reached two of her three major finals on clay courts.
     
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  14. galain

    galain Hall of Fame

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    I could almost guarantee Wendy Turnbull grew up on a clay type of court and had some grass court exposure mixed in. She's a Sandgate girl (just over the bridge from where I spent my high school years) and pretty much every court in the area back then was a 'dirt' court.

    The Milton Tennis centre was the focal point of Qld tennis in those days and it had grass courts. It was a very popular venue. A couple of private tennis clubs also had grass courts (Martina N came to practice on the grass at my old club one year in preparation for the Aussie summer), but when I was playing interschool tennis in the area it was almost always en tous cas/ant bed stuff.

    Glad I could be of help.
     
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  15. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    not just Wendy, but also Dianne did it great on slow courts, reaching the USO and FO semifinals and scoring very good Avon tour clay court results.
     
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  16. Oz_Rocket

    Oz_Rocket Semi-Pro

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    I grew up next door to an old school antbed clay court in Brisbane. It was owned by a gent who was heavily involved in the Qld Lawn Tennis Association and I know that in the 1950s and 60s most of the big names from Queensland had a hit there at one time or another (Laver, Anderson, Cooper, etc).

    The surface was a very compacted dirt as opposed to a true clay and had a fine very light brown dirt on the top. We had to roll it regularly and did the lines with lime chalk dispensed from a small roller. I don't remember having to water it that much compared to En-Tou-Cas or true clay. But you could still slide on it and I wore out quite a few pairs of Dunlop Volleys doing so!

    This type of court was dotted all throughout the suburbs of Brisbane and was where a lot of kids like me started playing. Wendy Turnbull and others would definitely had had a lot of time on antbed as juniors.
     
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  17. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    How was the bounce on those antbed clay courts? Was it faster or slower than European clay? Did the ball bounce up and stay low?
     
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  18. Oz_Rocket

    Oz_Rocket Semi-Pro

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    Having only played a few times on European Clay as an adult and not having played on antbed since I was in my early teens it is hard to compare.

    From my experience antbed generally is a harder and more compact surface than European clay or En-Tout-Cas. The top layer was also finer so the ball tended to be affected less. So all other things being equal, I think the bounce was a bit higher and it played a bit faster than other clays but not in the same league as a hardcourt.

    But as I say my last experience with antbed was over 30 years ago as a kid using an aluminium racquet with continental grip groundstrokes so a lot different to now.
     
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  19. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    I can't imagine there are a lot of termite mounds ground into courts anymore and those that were are mostly gone, or replaced.
     
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  20. jaggy

    jaggy G.O.A.T.

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    I grew up playing in Scotland on shale, a red colored surface that resembled clay in looks but played much faster with low bounces. I have to assume some British pros started on this.
     
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