The Claycourt Season
There are three distinct claycourt seasons during the tennis year. The South American played in February between the Australian Open and the Indian Wells Masters.
The second is the long Spring clay season that starts in the Americas and Morocco before moving to mainland Europe and finishing with the French Open at Roland Garros.
This season is not shared with simultaneous hard-court tournaments, unlike the Americas.
The third is the summer clay season that takes place in Europe after Wimbledon. The most important claycourt season is the Spring season which leads up to and includes the French Open at Roland Garros.
The French Championships was first held in 1891 in Paris on sand courts and was only open to members of French clubs. In 1925, the French Championships was opened to all amateurs internationally and was held at the Stade Francais in Sant-Cloud.
After the four Musketeers (Rene Lacoste, Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet and Jacques Brugnon) won the Davis Cup in 1927 France decided to defend the cup in 1928 at a new stadium to be built at Porte d’Auteuil.
This was named after the famous pioneering aviator Roland Garros. The French Championships has remained at Stade Roland Garros ever since and become a famous Grand Slam.
Roland Garros, in keeping with all the slams, has moved with the times and expanded recently into the botanical gardens next to the tournament site.
This has provided well-established gardens, planting, more trees and new catering facilities with the opportunity to rebuild the stadium courts. Both the two stadium courts now have a retractable roof to enable play to continue in all weather.
The third stadium court has been named Simone-Mathieu and was completed in 2019.
It is a design of enchantment and is set between 4 greenhouses containing unique botanical collections. Simone-Mathieu was a famous French tennis player and two-times singles winner of Roland Garros she also won the ‘triple’ in 1938 – singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
She was made an Officer of the Legion of Honor in France for her part in leading the Free French Forces in WW2. The playing surface at Roland Garros is called ”red clay” but is actually a coating of fine red brick dust built up in layers.
This is laid on sub-layers of various grades of free-draining hard-core to make sure excess rain can disperse but at the same time not allow the court to dry out too rapidly. A fine balance is needed with clay courts between excess water and not enough.
Court Suzanne Lenglen has a unique underground irrigation system to control surface moisture. The style of play needed to be successful on clay is very specific and the big server or serve and volleyer is not guaranteed success on clay.
Pete Sampras, with his big serve, won 14 slams but never the French Open. Bjorn Borg, the Swedish former world No1., won 11 slams between 1974 and 1981 – 6 at Roland Garros and 5 at Wimbledon.
A truly remarkable achievement considering the different skills needed on each surface.
Borg was basically a clay court player – brought up on Swedish clay he made full use of heavy topspin using a Western grip and, unusual for those days, two hands on his backhand.
He was, however, able to adapt his game to give him success on grass. The one constant that applies to all surfaces is fitness and the ability to move and recover with balance and control.
Rafa Nadal has demonstrated great physicality coupled with extreme use of heavy topspin. This has enabled Rafa to create great angles and take his opponent well off the court. The finishing shot to the open court is then routine.
Rafa demonstrates the use of a full Western grip, an open stance to the shot and a very good slide technique. The movement on clay is key to success – slide into your shot, hit and recover so that at no time are you off balance – Rafa is the expert on this technique.
Proposed Spring Claycourt Season 2023
Marrakech, Morocco – 2023.04.03 – 2023.04.09
Houston, US – ” .04.03 – ” .04.09
Monte-Carlo, Monoco – ” .04.09 – ” .04.16
Barcelona, Spain – ” .04.17 – ” .04.23
Belgrade, Serbia – ” .04.17 – ” .04.23
Munich, Germany – ” .04.24 – ” .04.30
Estoril, Portugal – ” .04.24 – ” .04.30
Madrid, Spain – ” .05.01 – ” .05.07
Rome, Italy – ” .05.07 – ” .05.14
Geneva, Switzerland – ” .05.14 – ” .05.21
Lyon, France – ” .05.14 – ” .05.21
Roland Garros, Paris, France – ” .05.21 – ” .06.04