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mid action shot of heather watson about to hit the ball playing on a clay court at the french open
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Playing on clay: top tips with Heather Watson, Jay Clarke and Arthur Fery

• 3 MINUTE READ

What’s red, covered in dust and lets you slide around? That’s right – it’s the clay court. For many it’s the hardest surface to master, so we’ve brought in some expert help to guide you through playing on the clay.

With the French Open right around the corner, perfect your own clay court game with tips and tricks from British No.2 Heather Watson, Jay Clarke and Arthur Fery.

Jay Carke’s top tips for adapting to the clay: 

1) Adapt your training to cater for different conditions 

2) Add more spin to your forehand to cater to longer rallies 

3) Take some heat off your serve to set up for the next shot 

The first thing you’ve got to understand before you can channel your inner Rafael Nadal and dominate the clay court, is how it differs from all the other surfaces – according to Clarke.

“The key difference is that it’s unstable so it’s moving under your feet,” said the British No. 5.

“It can change – it can become very fast or very slow depending on the water they put on it. It’s tough to change direction and the rallies are much longer. The training on clay changes a bit because of the long rallies and you’ll play a lot more points out of the hand because it’s easier to neutralise the serve.

“I play with a lot of spin off my forehand and try to take time away off the backhand. It’s more about serving smart and trying to put more patterns in because you have more time to do so.

“When I was younger my game used to change a lot but then when I started hitting with Andy Murray I noticed that he was doing the same things, but he was sliding a little bit here or taking a bit of heat off his serve and setting up for the next shot. I think when you get to a certain level your game doesn’t change, you just have to adapt.”

Heather Watson’s top tips for perfecting the slide: 

1) Neutralise your centre of gravity before hitting 

2) Always slide into your shots, not after you’ve hit 

3) When sliding make sure that your knee doesn’t go over your toe 

Watson, the World No.56, is no stranger to the clay and believes that perfecting your slide is the key to performing well.

“My top tips would be to firstly neutralise your centre of gravity,” she said. “It’s also important to slide into your shots rather than starting to slide after it. Make sure that your knee doesn’t go over your toe either because then you can injure yourself badly.”

Arthur Fery’s top tips for mastering your movement: 

1) Keep your head straight when hitting to keep balance 

2) When sliding put all of your weight on the leg that’s going to slide 

3) Always slide before hitting a shot to keep your balance 

Rising star Arthur Fery triumphed four times on the British Tour this year and is set to play in the junior French Open next week – here he talks through his tactics on the clay, focusing on how best to slide.

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“First of all, you want to put all your weight on the leg that’s going to slide – if you’re right-handed playing a forehand you want to put it all on the right leg, plant it into the ground and drive up,” he said.

“You’ve got to make sure you slide and then hit, otherwise you’ll lose balance and it won’t be as effective and it allows you to recover much quicker. Then you just need to keep your head straight – if you lose balance whilst hitting, your shot won’t be as effective either.”

Over to you 

So there you have it – top tips on mastering the clay from some of Britain’s brightest talents. Now it’s over to you so get out there on the clay and start practicing your moves. To find your nearest clay court visit the LTA’s court finder or book through LTA Rally.

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