A clay court is one of the four different types of tennis court. Clay courts are made of crushed shale, stone or brick. The red clay is slower than the green, or Har-Tru "American" clay. The French Open uses clay courts, making it unique among the Grand Slam tournaments.
Clay courts are more common in Continental Europe and Latin America than in the United States, Canada or Britain. In the United States, courts made of green clay, also known as "rubico", are often called "clay", but are not made of the same clay used in most European and Latin American countries. Although cheaper to construct than other types of tennis courts, the maintenance costs of clay are high as the surface must be rolled to preserve flatness. The water content must also be balanced; green courts are often sloped in order to allow water run-off.
Clay courts favor the "full western grip" for more topspin. Clay courters generally play in a semi circle about 1.5 to 3 metres behind the baseline.
Clay courts are considered "slow", because the balls bounce relatively high and more slowly, making it more difficult for a player to hit an unreturnable shot. Points are usually longer as there are fewer winners. Therefore, clay courts heavily favor baseliners who are consistent and have a strong defensive game, which has allowed players such as Rafael Nadal, Björn Borg, Chris Evert, and Justine Henin to find success at the French Open.
Clay court players use topspins to throw off their opponents. Movement on gravel courts is very different from movement on any other surface. Playing on clay often involves the ability to slide into the ball during the stroke, as opposed to running and stopping like on a hard or grass court. Players who excel on clay courts but struggle to replicate the same form on fast courts are known as clay-court specialists.
Clay courts are unique in that the ball bounce leaves an impression in the ground, which can help determine whether a shot was in or out. Critics of red clay courts point to the constant need to wet them down, problems renewing the surface if it dries out, and the damage caused to clothing and footwear through stains. All clay courts, not just red clay, tend to cause a build-up of clay on the bottom of the shoes of the players, needing constant removal.
Types of clay 
There are six different types of clay:
Red clay 
Almost all red "clay" courts are made not of natural clay but of crushed brick that is packed to make the court. The crushed brick is then covered with a topping of other crushed particles. This type of surface does not absorb water easily and is the most common in Europe and Latin America. The French Open is played on a red clay court at Stade Roland Garros. True natural clay courts are rare because they take two to three days to dry. A good example of natural red clay can be seen at the Frick Park Clay Courts in Pittsburgh, PA, a public facility of six red clay courts that has been in continual use since 1930.
Green clay 
Green clay, Har-Tru or "American" clay, is similar to red clay, the differences being that it is crushed basalt rather than brick, making the surface slightly harder and faster. Green clay is packed to make the subsurface. It is then covered with a topping. These clay courts can be found in all 50 of the United States but are located primarily in the Eastern and Southern states. In parts of the gulf coast region of the Southeast, green clay courts are often referred to as "rubico". There is one WTA tournament played on green Har-Tru clay courts in 2011: the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina. Earlier there was also the MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, but that tournament ended in 2010.
Maroon clay 
Yellow clay 
Grey clay 
Grey clay is made of natural grey clay from the ground. It needs to be kept moist and can turn to powder if dry. The surface is scattered with small stones to aide in sliding.
Blue clay 
Former tennis pro, entrepreneur and owner of the Madrid Masters tournament Ion Ţiriac introduced a new blue clay surface for the 2012 edition of the tournament. This controversial change has been grudgingly accepted on the players' side. Already in 2009, one of the outer courts had been made of the new material for the players to test it ahead of its 2012 implementation. Manuel Santana, the Open's current director, has assured that aside from the color the surface keeps the same properties as the traditional red clay. Although Ţiriac claims that his only motivation was the improvement of the viewing of the match, both for the naked eye and on television, critics have suggested that Ţiriac might have been motivated by the fact that blue happens to be the principal color of the titular sponsor of the tournament, the Spanish insurance giant Mutua Madrileña. This year's blue clay courts in Madrid were more slippery compared to traditional red clay, but it is not possible to know whether this depends on the color or on other causes (like depth, compression, thinness of the particles).
The most successful female player on clay in recent years has been Justine Henin, a four-time French Open singles champion who retired for the second (and presumably final) time in 2011. Her variety in the shots, speed, footwork and her slices have been her biggest weapons. Currently, the most successful male player on clay is Rafael Nadal, winner of seven French Open men's singles titles—he had never lost a match at the tournament until May 31, 2009, when he was beaten by Swedish player Robin Söderling. Nadal holds the record for the longest winning streak by any male player on a single surface in the Open era: 81 clay court wins between April 2005 and May 2007. (Note: in the pre-open era Tony Wilding was unbeaten on clay from May 1910 to June 1914 so his total is likely to be much higher than Nadal's). Other successful clay court players include Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Guillermo Vilas, Björn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Monica Seles, Steffi Graf, Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, and Gustavo Kuerten.
Justine Henin and Monica Seles both hold the record for the number of consecutive French Open titles won at 3 (1990-1992 for Seles and 2005-2007 for Henin), although Seles was prevented from participating in the 1993 French Open due to her stabbing incident and Henin did not participate in the 2008 French Open due to her sudden retirement mere weeks before the tournament.
Chris Evert holds the record for longest winning streak on clay for either gender in the Open era: from August 1973 to May 12, 1979, she won 125 consecutive clay court matches. (Note: in the pre-open era, between 1919 and 1926, Suzanne Lenglen played about 250 singles matches on clay, winning all of them in straight sets)
Guillermo Vilas holds the record for most titles won on clay in the Open era, with 46 trophies, only one French Open.
Clay-court specialist 
A clay-court specialist is a tennis player who excels on clay courts, but does not perform to the same standard on hard courts, grass courts, or other surfaces. The term is most frequently applied to professional players on the ATP or WTA tours rather than to average players.
Due in part to advances in racquet technology, today's clay-court specialists are also known for employing long, winding groundstrokes that generate heavy topspin, strokes which are much less effective when the surface is faster and the balls don't bounce as high. Clay-court specialists tend to slide more effectively on clay than other players. Many of them are also very adept at hitting the drop shot, which is effective because rallies on clay courts often leave players pushed far beyond the baseline. Additionally, the slow, long rallies require a great degree of mental focus and physical stamina from the players.
The definition of "clay-court specialist" has varied, with some placing players such as Thomas Muster, Sergi Bruguera, Gustavo Kuerten, and Juan Carlos Ferrero in that category, even though these players have won tournaments (including Masters Series events) on other surfaces. However, since these players won major titles only at the French Open, they are sometimes labeled as such. Other players, such as Sergi Bruguera, Albert Costa and Gastón Gaudio were French Open champions who won all or very nearly all of their career titles on clay. Among female players, there have been very few whose best results were confined exclusively to clay. Virginia Ruzici, Anastasia Myskina, Iva Majoli, Sue Barker, Ana Ivanovic, Francesca Schiavone and Li Na are the only female players to have won major titles at only the French Open since the beginning of the tennis open era in 1968. Only Ivanovic and Li (twice) have made Grand Slam finals on other surfaces (losing to Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka at the 2008, 2011 and 2013 Australian Opens respectively, which employs plexicushion). In the first two cases, those two players won the French Open in the same year.
In recent years clay courters have attempted to play better on other surfaces with some success. Ferrero reached the US Open Final in 2003, the same year he won the French Open, and has also won hardcourt tournaments. Nadal was considered a clay court specialist until he reached five Wimbledon finals on grass (winning in 2008 and again in 2010), won the Australian Open on hardcourt in 2009, won the Olympic singles gold medal on hardcourt in 2008, completed his career Grand Slam at the 2010 US Open, and won six Masters titles on hardcourts, in addition to his success of a record-breaking 7 French Open titles and winning streak of 81 consecutive matches on clay.
Professional tournaments played on clay 
Grand Slam (red) 
- Roland Garros (Paris, France)
ATP World Tour Masters 1000 (red) 
- Masters Series Monte Carlo (billed as Monte Carlo, Monaco; actual venue in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France)
- Masters Series Madrid (Madrid, Spain)
- Internazionali BNL d'Italia (Rome, Italy)
ATP World Tour 500 Series (red) 
- Abierto Mexicano Telcel (Acapulco, Mexico)
- International German Open (Hamburg, Germany)
- Torneo Godó (Barcelona, Spain)
ATP World Tour 250 Series (red) 
- VTR Open (Santiago, Chile)
- Copa Telmex (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
- Brasil Open (São Paulo, Brazil)
- Grand Prix Hassan II (Casablanca, Morocco)
- Estoril Open (Estoril, Portugal)
- BMW Open (Munich, Germany)
- Serbia Open (Belgrade, Serbia)
- Nice Open (Nice, France)
- World Team Cup (Düsseldorf, Germany)
- Swedish Open (Båstad, Sweden)
- Mercedes Cup (Stuttgart, Germany)
- Allianz Suisse Open (Gstaad, Switzerland)
- Croatia Open (Umag, Croatia)
- Open Romania (Bucharest, Romania)
ATP World Tour 250 Series (maroon) 
WTA (green) 
- Family Circle Cup (Charleston, USA)
- MPS Group Championships (Ponte Vedra Beach, USA, tournament ended in 2010)
WTA (red) 
- Copa Colsanitas (Bogotá, Colombia)
- Abierto Mexicano TELCEL (Acapulco, Mexico)
- Andalucia Tennis Experience (Marbella, Spain)
- Barcelona Ladies Open (Barcelona, Spain)
- Porsche Tennis Grand Prix (Stuttgart, Germany)
- Grand Prix SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem (Fes, Morocco)
- Internazionali BNL d'Italia (Rome, Italy)
- Estoril Open (Estoril, Portugal)
- Madrid Masters (Madrid, Spain)
- Warsaw Open (Warsaw, Poland)
- Internationaux de Strasbourg (Strasbourg, France)
- GDF SUEZ Grand Prix (Budapest, Hungary)
- Swedish Open Women (Båstad, Sweden)
- Internazionali Femminili di Palermo (Palermo, Italy)
- ECM Prague Open (Prague, Czech Republic)
- Gastein Ladies (Bad Gastein, Austria)
See also 
- "Clay Courts: What Are They Anyway?". Xsports. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
- "Frick Park Clay Court Tennis Club". Retrieved 2011-01-18.
- "Novak Djokovic Irritated by Madrid Open Blue Clay." BBC News. BBC. Web. 12 May 2012. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/tennis/18000107>.
- "Tennis Stars' Boycott Threat over Madrid's Blue Clay Court." ITV News. Web. 12 May 2012. <http://www.itv.com/news/2012-05-11/tennis-players-threaten-to-boycott-madrids-blue-clay-court/>.
- "Upset by Tipsarevic, Đoković won't return to Madrid's blue clay" SI.com Fri May 11, 2012 10:10AM <http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/tennis/news/20120511/madrid-open-friday/>
- Ford, Bonnie D (2003-09-206). "Nadal the lead warrior in Spanish surge on grass". EPSN.com. Retrieved 2008-07-10.
- "Ferrero shatters Agassi hopes". BBC. 2008-06-27. Retrieved 2008-07-10.
- "Ferrero claims Madrid title". BBC. 2002-10-19. Retrieved 2008-07-10.