And Federer makes it as he has been unlucky being around on clay at the same time as Nadal!
So, what do all these players have in common that has helped them to be so successful on clay?
Environmental factors apart ie the opportunity to play on the red stuff from an early age, just what is it that separates these players from the others in their generation?
The following abilities of these players contributed greatly to their success:
1 Mental resilience
2 Very strong physically
4 Maintaining balance while sliding/moving on a slippy surface
5 Constructing a point
The modern clay court game is becoming faster with quicker balls and faster shot making than in previous years, but the clay court specialists like the majority of Spanish players still produce better results on a clay court than any other surface.
The opportunity to play on clay from a young age is fundamental but it’s how you spend your time on the court and if you have the desire/personality to focus long enough on the task at hand ie the difficulty in finishing a point on a surface that is so slow and high bouncing! The patience required to grind out the rallies on the red stuff is just not for everyone - even very good players like Barry Cowan - just kidding - no players like Berdych do not have the patience or movement skills to win Grand Slams. It demands such a specific set of skills that I would almost class it as another sport compared to tennis on any other surface - yes even Wimbledon which has become more like a medium paced hard court apart from the first few days when it’s an ice skating competition!
What are the clay court benefits for a club player?
2 Longer rallies with more time to prepare and hit the ball
3 Helps to develop the tactical side of the game in terms of how to construct points
4 Helps to understand spin with a more responsive court
5 How to slide and improve balance
6 More exercise with the longer rallies
7 Great for drop shots and lobs
8 Lovely to look at - especially the red clay!
9 More fun!
The only reason not to play on clay?
“My socks get all red and can’t get it off” is the regular complaint I hear - get some exercise scrubbing the clay off before washing - good for wrist strength.
Where to play on clay?
Not that easy to get access to clay courts in the UK unless you are lucky enough to have some at your club or perhaps the new artificial clay courts which I suspect may dominate in years to come..