Clay tennis courts
For as long as anyone can remember, the European spring has meant clay-court tennis, when the mudlarks of the tennis world have their moment in the sun. It’s a chance to show their wiles on a surface that all top players agree is the biggest test of a player’s ability, tactical nous, variety, patience and physical fitness. But why clay in the first place, and why is it such a challenge?
Until late in the 19th century, tennis was exclusively played on grass and though there is some dispute as to the first example of when it was first played on clay, it seems that an Englishman, the seven-time Wimbledon champion William Renshaw, may have been the man responsible, thanks to a spot of improvisation.
Why are there clay tennis courts?
‘At the end of the 19th century, William Renshaw was giving tennis lessons on grass courts in Cannes, but due to the sun, the grass tended to burn and lose its lustre,’ an article on RolandGarros.com says. ‘To protect the grass, Renshaw decided to cover it with a thin layer of red powder which was obtained from grinding down rejects from the clay pots manufactured in the town of Vallauris in the south of France. And thus, the clay court was born.