Learning how to play tennis on red clay — or red dirt — can be a wee bit tricky. Keep a close eye on the players at the French Open since they have pretty much perfected the powder.
Here are seven tips on how to survive and thrive as a dirtballer.
1. Say goodbye to your white socks.
Or say hello to red socks. Either way, your feet will tell the story of the match. If your opponent moved you from left to right, the sides of your socks will be stained a sweet Roland Garros red. If you were moving north and south the whole match, you’ll likely be wearing what looks to be red shin guards by the end of the first set.
2. You might get weird blisters. Ouch.
Since the clay gets in your shoes, you might find yourself with a foot blister or two after a long bout in the dirt. Blisters anywhere are no fun. All tennis players have had ‘em. All retired tennis players brag about how many calluses they have and where they used to get blisters. “No big deal, I use a 4 ¾ grip.” If you play someone who says that, make sure you beat them 6-0, 6-0.
3. Clay makes everything sslloowweerr.
Know that cannon of a serve you perfected on hard court? Well, it’s 10 mph slower on clay. You’ll have to be ready for your opponent to return it most of the time. Plus, when you line up your fearhand to end the point, it’ll probably just be the beginning of a 50 shot rally.
4. It’s ssllooww. But you have to be fast.
Dropshots. These little buggers (keeping it PG, here) can be a live or die asset on clay. The ball dies on the dirt so you’ll have to be ready to chase down a dropper that’s twice as deadly. And not all dropshots go to heaven. Those who have played talented drop-shotters would tell you they actually all go to hell.
5. Do the electric slide.
Okay, so it’s not electric. But if you’re looking to take your clay game to the next level, you should learn how to slide. It gets you to those villainous dropshots a little quicker. And if you can perfect the slide, you’ll likely turn heads and also turn points in your favor.
6. It gets all over you.
Remember the last time you went to the beach? Chances are you still have sand somewhere in your ear or between your toes. Clay does the same thing. Don’t worry, when you shower after a match, you’re not bleeding, it’s just clay’s way of saying, “Hey, good work out there. Don’t forget shampoo.” You won’t be saying “au revoir” to the red goodness for at least a few days.
7. Slide in it. Roll in it. Win it it.
Tennis is supposed to be fun. Yes, it may be a little more enjoyable when you win. However, you should always aim to have a good time no matter the outcome. So don’t worry about those white socks, they were getting old anyway. And forget about the consequences of rolling around in your white tee, it’s more fashionable with a dash of red. But most importantly, make a clay angel after you win. It’s not official till you do.