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I started playing tennis on clay in Poland at the age of 7. I trained every day after school for almost 5 years. (This reminds me that next time I go to Poland I will search for my old pics from that joyful period). As a kid I always played on clay so when I grew up this was and is my favourite surface. Now, living in Barcelona I always prefer to play on clay and I guess I struggle on other surfaces due to my clay-court-habits:
- I try to generate a lot of topspin on my groundstrokes, which is effective on clay but less so when the surface is faster and the balls don’t bounce as high.
- I can slide into the ball quite effectively on clay but when I play on hard court I can’t rely on sliding to get to low balls.
- I like hitting drop shots (not so running to them) which can earn me some points when my opponents are far beyond the baseline. During rallies on clay it’s easier to keep your opponent far from the net, but not so on other surfaces.
Yes, training tennis in Spain usually means training on clay. Recently I’ve done some research into the benefits of clay and it’s true it has many advantages for players, including:
- developing agility, dynamic stability and balance training as the court is slippery,
- developing racquet speed as the court plays at a slower pace and makes the balls feel heavier thus players are forced to create their own power,
- developing anticipation and good tactics as the points and rallies on clay are typically longer and quick shot combinations will not win points as easily,
- developing stamina and physical endurance as longer rallies mean more swings,
- developing technical adaptation as bad bounces on clay force the player to learn how to change their swing path on the fly and become comfortable with a wide range of unexpected circumstances,
- producing fewer injuries as clay is soft on the joints and players can train longer and harder without joint inflammation.
So maybe these are the reasons why Spanish tennis players have been at the top of ranking for the last two decades. During that time Spain has produced tennis champions, such as Rafael Nadal, Carlos Moyá, Arantxa Sánchez Vicario and Juan Carlos Ferrero. Also, Spanish tennis coaching methods and techniques are regarded as unique and world-class. Even Andy Murray chose to train in Spain!
Now, I coach almost exclusively on clay in Barcelona and run most of our tennis camps on clay as well. If this is your preferred surface too, Spain should be your destination to come and play Spanish tennis. Maybe even joining one of our adult tennis camps?