Rallies are longer, points are tougher and matches generally last longer than on other surfaces. The influence of the serve is negated somewhat by the slowness of the clay, and groundstrokes, particularly a big forehand, are usually considered vital to success. With the ball bouncing high, strength is crucial to hit shot after shot from above the shoulder.
There can be no doubt that fitness is a bigger issue on clay than any other surface but just because it is slow doesn’t mean that playing on clay is purely a battle from the baseline. It also requires patience, variety and imagination.
As Rafael Nadal – who has won more titles on clay than anyone in history – has shown, net play is important, too. Nadal has used a monster forehand to great effect over the years but he also hits plenty of drop shots and angles and is not afraid to finish points at the net.
William Renshaw would surely be proud of the effects of his bit of improvisation.