Tennis Elite No Longer Sees Red Over Clay

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2009 8:39 AM CDT
The wind blows clay to the air as Novak Djokovic of Serbia waits for a serve at the Madrid Open last week.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Clay has long been the red-headed stepchild of the tennis world, with top pros like John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and Pete Sampras almost taking pride in never winning a French Open. The term “clay-court specialist” was a veiled insult. Now, though, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal is a clay-court wonder, and elite players have embraced extensive clay training, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The clay game has traditionally been slower, but lately clay has been getting faster, even as other surfaces—grass and hard courts—have slowed. The modern game is played mainly from the baseline, turning it into the kind of chess match clay players learn to thrive on. “Clay teaches you to suffer,” coach Jose Higueras says, looking ahead to tomorrow’s French Open kickoff.
(Read more French Open stories.)