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Are the lack of clay courts the reason why US tennis has declined?

I was invited to a USPTA coaches meeting in Riverside, CA. We exchanged and demonstrated several drills and had a nice burger while watching the Australian Open.

A coach from San Diego gave a talk and his opinion was that the lack of clay court play has caused today's juniors to have little sense of point construction. Also, they have lost the ability to hit going backwards, or hitting off the back foot. He also suggested to begin building more clay courts. He ended the discussion by saying the last 10 number 1 players in the world had experience with clay as a junior. What do you think?

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i think so i played on clay once it was so new to me i wasnt comfortable at all

yea i played on it a few weeks ago, the clay wasn't fine enuff to slide much but just to feel the ground shift every little which way makes it feel like you're unsure of your footing the entire time...

 

kt
Yulanda B said:

i think so i played on clay once it was so new to me i wasnt comfortable at all

Yeah, it has to be moist in order to get good grip. If it is the least bit dry, forget about it.
Moved this to the general tennis discussion.  :)

Mike is on you! wow! what a hall monitor!

 

kt
Tim Prapong said:

Thanks again, Mike! I must've ate too much Kentucky Fried Chicken today.

Mike Dong said:
Moved this to the general tennis discussion.  :)
He should be a librarian! You know, with the card catalogue system and the long shelves with cards to pull out.

Kelvinator said:

Mike is on you! wow! what a hall monitor!

 

kt
Tim Prapong said:

Thanks again, Mike! I must've ate too much Kentucky Fried Chicken today.

Mike Dong said:
Moved this to the general tennis discussion.  :)

Seems like it could be posted in Pro section as well...

To answer the ???, my initial answer was that it is NOT the reason because most of the slams are not played on clay.  But I see the point now, the
ability to construct points.  Maybe this is more true on the men's
side.  Serena and Venus never played clay, as far as I know, and they
simply overpowered their opponents with agressive play.  Who needs
defense?  By the way, have you ever seen Serena hit from her back foot? 
About the ugliest stroke you could imagine.  :-)

 

For
the men, maybe that pro has a point.  Although I think it is very
unlikely that it will happen (build more clay courts in US.)  The
maintenance costs are just too high, and municipalities are looking to
CUT costs associated with tennis, not increase them.

I think the pro has another very good point. Footwork is really a big minus nowadays. Compare the footwork of McEnroe/Connors to this generation of Roddick/Querrey/Isner. That footwork is developed on the clay. Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Davydenko their footwork is distinctively made on the clay. You can see they have the ability to slide and they have greater economy, using footwork that uses balance similar to skiing.

As for Serena and Venus, they are great sluggers and that is where U.S. juniors are/have been going. I hate to say it, but slugging with fair footwork goes farther in the women's tour. But you don't see the slalom like pivots in U.S. tennis, either male or female.

You and I know the USTA has plenty of money to build some courts. As much as they are charging for memberships and tournaments...

Interesting that you brought skiing into this. Skiing at a high level requires aggression, caution and balance all at the right time. Could skiing / sliding save American Tennis? You've got to move forward on skis all the time. Ahh...I'm just really interested in what these sports can teach eachother.

cheers

J

Tim Prapong said:

I think the pro has another very good point. Footwork is really a big minus nowadays. Compare the footwork of McEnroe/Connors to this generation of Roddick/Querrey/Isner. That footwork is developed on the clay. Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Davydenko their footwork is distinctively made on the clay. You can see they have the ability to slide and they have greater economy, using footwork that uses balance similar to skiing.

As for Serena and Venus, they are great sluggers and that is where U.S. juniors are/have been going. I hate to say it, but slugging with fair footwork goes farther in the women's tour. But you don't see the slalom like pivots in U.S. tennis, either male or female.

You and I know the USTA has plenty of money to build some courts. As much as they are charging for memberships and tournaments...

Who were the last 10 number 1's in the world...and their "exp" on clay as a junior?

 

kt

For instance, Federer's footwork going backwards on the back foot, from heel to toe, on his forehand is a very interesting piece of footwork. Nadal's footwork, especially his advanced slide technique, is far above the "California slide".

Watch how they use the outside foot, very often times the back pivot foot, when retrieving a running forehand. Much different from the "go for it all" running forehand footwork of Sampras. They employ a lower center of gravity as well. 

I had to laugh at the notion of Bailey's footwork when introduced at this USPTA meeting. It was an extra turnaround step that none of the Europeans or South Americans use.

So some of this footwork is about being able to play defensively backwards or being pulled out wide off a corner. You can think of the running forehand footwork as a "slalom pivot" back to the inner foot nearest the center of the baseline. 

Here, I don't think he was right about the LAST 10, but his point is essentially right. If you count the majority of the past number one ATP players, they had clay court experience as a junior.

Federer, Nadal, Safin, Rios, Muster, Kuerten, Moya, Kafelnikov, Ferrero, Lendl, Wilander, McEnroe, Connors, Borg, Edberg, Becker, Newcombe, Nastase (1973).

I do not know about the clay court experience of Courier, Sampras, Agassi, Hewitt


Kelvinator said:

Who were the last 10 number 1's in the world...and their "exp" on clay as a junior?

 

kt

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