Playing on clay (Har-Tru), tips ?

Ballinbob

Hall of Fame
I have a 4.5 tournament match on Friday and it's being played on an indoor Har-Tru court. I'm told Har-Tru is green clay.

Things I've been told so far:
1. It's very humid inside
2. It's hard to change direction

Any tips for playing on this surface? Is it noticeably slower and higher bouncing than your average American hardcourt? Also, is sliding a must? I have no idea how to properly slide on a clay court but I'll probably try in the warmup for fun:)

Can I play my normal game or are there adjustments that would benefit me?

Thanks !
 

Bud

Bionic Poster
Do you play on clay at all? If so, it's not much different.

If not, enjoy the match :)

Yes, sliding is important. The ball is slower and kicks higher.
 
Har-tru is slightly slower than a hard court, but the bounce probably won't be higher since the balls will pick up dirt and moisture, and unlike on red clay, there isn't a huge boost in bounce height from this surface. You won't have to slide, but sliding in a controlled manner beats slipping uncontrollably. I wouldn't make big adjustments, but being more patient and deliberate, especially with footwork, will help.
 

Ballinbob

Hall of Fame
Do you play on clay at all? If so, it's not much different.

If not, enjoy the match :)

Yes, sliding is important. The ball is slower and kicks higher.

Never played on the stuff. The club I'm playing at is very expensive so I never bothered but I thought this would be fun.

And TS- Thanks. Hope I will be able to control any slips. I think I'll just focus on footwork like you said. My friend was telling me to only hit kick serves and loop all my shots. This is what led me to ask around here... He made it seem like a completely alien surface
 

hrstrat57

Hall of Fame
You'll be fine, just dial in the feel in warm up. You'll get some sitters be ready to hit those hard.

I think you will love it.
 
Never played on the stuff. The club I'm playing at is very expensive so I never bothered but I thought this would be fun.

And TS- Thanks. Hope I will be able to control any slips. I think I'll just focus on footwork like you said. My friend was telling me to only hit kick serves and loop all my shots. This is what led me to ask around here... He made it seem like a completely alien surface

I think your friend's exaggerating a bit. :) Playing a little more patiently and looping everything are not the same thing.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Wear new shoes with a traction bottom, bring your old shoes also.
As for kicking serves and hitting with heavy topspin, first scout your opponent to see what he dislikes.
 

Ballinbob

Hall of Fame
Thanks all. Whatever happens it should be a fun match. I'll try and focus on footwork and take it from there.

I got new Barricades three weeks ago so I'm good on the shoe department.

Also talked to my friend again... said hitting behind players is effective on this surface since it's harder to change direction. I liked that tip, will give it a shot
 

tennis_ocd

Hall of Fame
Indoor har-tru around here in winter is cold and very damp. I like to play warm and will wear a comfortable sweatshirt for first couple games... I don't really notice all that much movement differences - perhaps I'm too slow to be affected. Does feel much better the next morning.

Kick serves/slice seem to be 2x as effective than as on hardcourts. Top spin moon balls become a real weapon.
 

Mongolmike

Hall of Fame
I love playing on har tru or red... here's my 2 cents...

It is a lot harder to slide than what you see the pros do. Do not expect to be sliding 4 - 5 feet on chase down shots UNLESS you are very fit and very fast. If you are just in decent shape and a normal weight, the sliding you do is negligable (sp?). Makes you appreciate the speed and fitness of the pros sliding 6-8 feet for 3 hours. Amazing.

If you hit with big topspin or a big kicker... you are going to love it. I'm no scientist, but I'd say you get an extra 20% bounce on topspinners and a noticable 20% action on a good kicker. I love serving on clay.

Indoor har tru they will have it a little more humid in there, but it's not Florida in the summer humid.

The court will get chewed up a bit and this can affect a bounce if the ball hits a "divot" just right. The court is a bit slower too, so you can adjust.

Probably the biggest negative is a hard push off... sometimes you will spin your wheels a bit. I just wear my normal shoes, but I wear the ones I don't mind getting all clayed up. And bring an extra pair to wear home... you'll be tracking particles all over. Last indoor place I played at I had to awl out the particles out of my shoe treads after the match. They were packed firmly with grit. Socks were gritted up too. All fun tho.
 
T

TCF

Guest
We have mostly Har Tru around here. Some great advice so far. Also expect the rallies to last longer so be prepared for a longer work day than usual. You will get some very strange bounces every now and then, especially as the court gets chewed up after a while, don't let them bug you, just chuckle and move on.
 

Ballinbob

Hall of Fame
Indoor har-tru around here in winter is cold and very damp. I like to play warm and will wear a comfortable sweatshirt for first couple games... I don't really notice all that much movement differences - perhaps I'm too slow to be affected. Does feel much better the next morning.

Kick serves/slice seem to be 2x as effective than as on hardcourts. Top spin moon balls become a real weapon.

Wouldn't indoor har-tru be warm and humid inside to keep the clay moist? Or perhaps that just here.

I play a topspin game so it's sounding this surface will treat me well. Will let you know how it goes tomorrow night
 
M

MurrayMyInspiration

Guest
Dont go for too much. On slow courts you will not be hitting many winners, so dial it back dont go for lines so early in rally as even if you hit them he will prob still slide into it and get it back.

Be patient, move the ball around well with spins and nice depth and then when you get a chance go for it and be aggresive.

Crosscourt forehand very very useful. Two good cross in a row can win you a point, wide angle with depth then he will mose likely reply Crosscourt and then you can go back behind him deep crosscourt again, wrongfoot him and its prob the safest shot in tennis to hit.

Its a slow court, you can slide. Defense will be very important, dont be afraid to push and scramble when you need to, high topspin loopers can be very effective when out wide, even slice it back on both sides if you have to. DO NOT slap winners when out of position.

Use a low slice if you have it to bring them in to no mans land if you get the chance.

Slow court with humid, heavy balls with a high enough bounce on the court, will mean he will rarely be hitting clean winners off low enticing slices and he might be passed easily if he comes in especially if the ball sits up on the slow high bouncing court.

Good luck!
PS. Dont use slice forehand approaches :)
 

Ballinbob

Hall of Fame
Thanks all, never thought about how muddied up the shoes can get, I'll be sure to bring an extra pair. I'm pretty fast (primary sport is track and field) but sliding doesn't seem like something I want to be doing too often. I'm 6"3 and get injured a lot, so the less sliding the better for me lol. As I said, I'll see how it feels during the warmup and go from there
 

Mongolmike

Hall of Fame
Thanks all, never thought about how muddied up the shoes can get, I'll be sure to bring an extra pair. I'm pretty fast (primary sport is track and field) but sliding doesn't seem like something I want to be doing too often. I'm 6"3 and get injured a lot, so the less sliding the better for me lol. As I said, I'll see how it feels during the warmup and go from there


Muddied up is the wrong word. Dirty/dusty is closer to what will happen. If you are wearing white shoes or socks, they will stain tho.

And as for the sliding... keep in mind the pros slide on freaking hard courts too! And occasionally most of us will... but tennis pros are in tip top amazing condition... low body fat, great speed, and lots and lots of practice on clay. They know how to balance their weight to slide. Most of us who haven't played on clay that much don't slide correctly, and our lead foot kind of digs in/plows in... I guess our weight is too far forward, as opposed to mid weight or back weight slightly to allow the slide to happen?
 

Lukhas

Legend
It is not that hard to slide on clay. What is hard is to slide the right distance. Sometimes you over-slide and end up too close to the ball. Sometimes it's too short. With time and experience it will come.
And like mentioned earlier, you need to learn how to construct points if you didn't knew already, and to be more patient. "Boom-boom" tennis doesn't work as much. Still does, but not as much. You will grind sometimes. Spin works well, even on slices because even if slices will bounce higher, clay takes spin very well so it becomes a very good defensive tool.
 

Fintft

G.O.A.T.
If you hit with big topspin or a big kicker... you are going to love it. I'm no scientist, but I'd say you get an extra 20% bounce on topspinners and a noticable 20% action on a good kicker. I love serving on clay.

Probably the biggest negative is a hard push off... sometimes you will spin your wheels a bit.

To me the above part about movement is also the biggest negative; hard to change directions/move aggresively.

Also the topspin might be confusing initially, i.e. what do you do? Do you stay even further back behind the baseline to deal with it? If so, what if the opponent makes an angle or alternates with short balls?
 

tennis_ocd

Hall of Fame
Wouldn't indoor har-tru be warm and humid inside to keep the clay moist? Or perhaps that just here.

I play a topspin game so it's sounding this surface will treat me well. Will let you know how it goes tomorrow night
Here it's very humid from moist clay but they keep air temp down to conserve energy cost. Very cool, very damp feeling.
 

RetroSpin

Hall of Fame
Some very good advice, particularly from Murray and Mongolmike.

The amount of moisture in the hardtru can vary considerably, depending on how much they water it. If it's on the moist side, I wouldn't try to slide on it. If it has a dry top layer, then sliding is much easier although I don't think I would try it for the first time in a match.

I recently played a tournament on clay, after spending the summer playing on hard courts. I had a lot of trouble at first returning serves because I was not waiting for them to get to me. IOW, my timing was messed up.
 

Databank

New User
Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club

You'll be playing at my club! They have a below-ground watering system and keep it fairly moist, so sliding is not as easy as on an outdoor court at sea level. The balls can get heavy if it's too moist. I find it more of an adjustment going from clay to hard than vice-versa. Just play as you normally would and you will adjust accordingly.

Sliding isn't required, so don't fret about it. The biggest adjustment I had to make was with the lines. Pushing off of a line can cause slipping. Balls landing on lines can be tricky; they can skid or bounce up higher. A serve hitting a nail on the service line can result in an unhittable ball. Hitting behind opponent is a good tactic. Keeping the ball low with slice works well too. Of course, heavy top is always good. Like others said, clay love spin. Kick that second serve!

Try not to get on court 2. It's got more dead spots than the old Boston Gahden basketball court!:) if on the end courts (1 & 7), serve wide to see if you can run returner into the wall. They usually don't put tournament matches on them and the wall really isn't that close. But we try to do that in our doubles matches...

I love the indoor clay court facility. And there is no permanent court time or court fees. If you play more than once a week, it really is great value for the money. Not as expensive as many people think and a lot cheaper than many other facilities in the Denver metro area.

Good luck and have fun time!
 

Ballinbob

Hall of Fame
You'll be playing at my club! They have a below-ground watering system and keep it fairly moist, so sliding is not as easy as on an outdoor court at sea level. The balls can get heavy if it's too moist. I find it more of an adjustment going from clay to hard than vice-versa. Just play as you normally would and you will adjust accordingly.

Sliding isn't required, so don't fret about it. The biggest adjustment I had to make was with the lines. Pushing off of a line can cause slipping. Balls landing on lines can be tricky; they can skid or bounce up higher. A serve hitting a nail on the service line can result in an unhittable ball. Hitting behind opponent is a good tactic. Keeping the ball low with slice works well too. Of course, heavy top is always good. Like others said, clay love spin. Kick that second serve!

Try not to get on court 2. It's got more dead spots than the old Boston Gahden basketball court!:) if on the end courts (1 & 7), serve wide to see if you can run returner into the wall. They usually don't put tournament matches on them and the wall really isn't that close. But we try to do that in our doubles matches...

I love the indoor clay court facility. And there is no permanent court time or court fees. If you play more than once a week, it really is great value for the money. Not as expensive as many people think and a lot cheaper than many other facilities in the Denver metro area.

Good luck and have fun time!

Hey there ! Yes I'm playing at Greenwood in the Denver Clay Court Championship tournament they have. Appreciate your input since that's where I'll be playing. And appreciate the heads up on court two, I'm going early tomorrow to warm up and I'll request to not be put on it (if that's allowed lol).

My friend told me Greenwood is expensive but I've never checked it out for myself, I just took his word for it. I go to the Colorado School of Mines so Greenwood is also a bit far as well. I've heard it's a great facility.

Anyway thanks again, I think I'm mentally ready for tomorrow. I'll post my experiences tomorrow and let you guys know how it goes. Looking forward to trying my kick serve on this surface, depending on how my opponent plays I might opt for a hard kick for a 1st serve instead of my flat one
 
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NLBwell

Legend
Ballinbob,
The clay is terrible to play on. You will play horribly. It will be no fun and you will just want to pack up and go home.
By the way, I'm also playing in that tournament :)
 

Ballinbob

Hall of Fame
Ballinbob,
The clay is terrible to play on. You will play horribly. It will be no fun and you will just want to pack up and go home.
By the way, I'm also playing in that tournament :)

Haha oh man ! Don't tell me you're playing 4.5 too?

Should be a fun tournament :)
 

NLBwell

Legend
Yep, 4.5.
Haven't played on the clay in a couple of years, so it should be interesting.
Have fun - I'm sure you will actually enjoy it a lot.
 
M

MurrayMyInspiration

Guest
Match is in two hours, I'll let you guys know how it went and what I thought of the clay. Should be a good time either way

Good luck to you too NLB

Grind him into the dust so deep his remains will never be recovered for his loved ones! :twisted:
 

Ballinbob

Hall of Fame
Well I ended up losing... It was a bigger adjustment than I thought.

Some notes on the clay:
1. The ball became heavy with moisture quickly and it was hard for me to hit through the court
3. The court is noticeably slower than most hard courts but it wasn't a high bouncing clay court. I thought the ball stayed rather low
4. I could not change direction for the life of me.
5. Didn't get too many bad bounces thankfully

It was a good experience overall and I would like to get more practice on it. My serve and forehand are my best shots and they weren't that effective here, seemed like they were in slow motion. This surface definitely doesn't favor big hitters... A slow, lower bouncing clay court is probably the worst surface for a tall guy to play on. I'm pretty confident I could take this guy playing on an indoor hard court though. He was a clay court specialist and knew how to play on this stuff

There were lots of 10+ shot rallies but I never felt comfortable during them as that's not how I like to play. Hit lots of big forehands but they all came back b/c I couldn't penetrate with it

The number one seed at this tournament is essentially just a big serve so I'm curious to see how he will do

Overall, rough night in the office. I kind of feel for the Americans who have trouble playing at Rolland Garros now haha. I did have fun though and made me realize I need to be more patient during rallies

And sorry to disappoint you MMI haha. I should have listened to you and hit more cross court forehands and been patient
 

NLBwell

Legend
The number one seed at this tournament is essentially just a big serve so I'm curious to see how he will do

Just got smoked by the #1 seed. Lots of saying "good serve" and walking to the other side. Also, although I served well and generally played well my first match, beating a good player, I really had nothing for this match. Poor first serve percentage and my second serve wasn't hopping much. Felt like I was facing a cannon with a pea shooter.
 

Ballinbob

Hall of Fame
Just got smoked by the #1 seed. Lots of saying "good serve" and walking to the other side. Also, although I served well and generally played well my first match, beating a good player, I really had nothing for this match. Poor first serve percentage and my second serve wasn't hopping much. Felt like I was facing a cannon with a pea shooter.

Haha ! Yeah I played Wes awhile back and that's pretty much how it went for me too. His ground game is nothing spectacular at all but the trick is returning his serve. He's not even in good shape but it doesn't matter when you have a serve like that.

Also, did you get a goodie bag from this tournament or did I just not get one?
 
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mikeler

Moderator
At Sectionals on clay, I played a guy with a huge lefty serve. My 3rd return game I pulled a Rafa and stood all the way at the back fence to return his serve. I looped every one of my returns back deep. The guy was getting so frustrated by not getting cheap points off his serve he just fell apart. Food for thought for you guys next time...
 
M

MurrayMyInspiration

Guest
Hey Bob, you are in college, I know you are doing quite a intense course, petrochemical engineering I think if I remember.

Do you have a college team?
You got to start training hard man, if you want to get to 5.5 you gotta do the most of your improvement with youth on your side. Hard luck in your match.
 

Ballinbob

Hall of Fame
I'll keep that in mind next time I get the chance to play on clay Mike.

And MMI yeah I'm studying petroleum engineering. To be honest education is more important than tennis for me but I am training hard.

Going to hit the gym hard this winter and use the indoor track we have to run sprints. We have a club college team which isn't all that great, I get better competition at USTA tournaments. This was first year since high school playing a lot of tournaments and I did pretty well. Hopefully I'll keep improving. Might get an indoor tennis membership at a nearby club so I can keep playing in the winter
 
M

MurrayMyInspiration

Guest
I'll keep that in mind next time I get the chance to play on clay Mike.

And MMI yeah I'm studying petroleum engineering. To be honest education is more important than tennis for me but I am training hard.

Going to hit the gym hard this winter and use the indoor track we have to run sprints. We have a club college team which isn't all that great, I get better competition at USTA tournaments. This was first year since high school playing a lot of tournaments and I did pretty well. Hopefully I'll keep improving. Might get an indoor tennis membership at a nearby club so I can keep playing in the winter

Studies come first for sure!
Yikes, no tennis over the Winter would be a massive downer. I always say I am going to hit the gym hard in Winter too but I am never follow through on it, all talk no action!
Not a bad idea to become a physical beast over Winter and then spend all your time playing in the Spring. Dont lift too much though, Here is an excellent article on fitness training on what Roddick does, http://ie.askmen.com/sports/bodybuilding_250/282b_training-for-tennis-the-roddick-way.html

He actually stays away from weights as much as he can!
 
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