Every year I transition clients from indoor to outdoor season – that means hard courts to Har-tru courts. I hear the familiar, “what’s happening..I can’t get my timing down” and I explain, they have to adjust to the difference in court surfaces. Shortly after, they find their groove as timing & footwork come together – albeit slower – on the clay! Many players don’t have the good fortune to have Har-Tru courts let alone the Real – European RED clay courts that makes Roland Garros in France and the Madrid Open in Spain so stylishly sexy. You can’t help but stare and wonder…what’s it like to play on it?! Our travelers love the experience of playing on this surface for their tennis camps or holidays in Spain. The French appropriately have bragging rights when it comes to the prettiest Slam around – Roland Garros. And no doubt because it feels noble to be in the Red’s presence.
So what gives..what makes the European Red Clay tennis courts vs. Har-tru courts so righteous?
For starters, the green Har- tru clay courts found at many of your local country clubs is popular in the USA. Har-Tru is a brand name for the clay used to surface these courts. And although green & red clay courts are similar; the green plays a bit faster. The ball doesn’t bounce as high, winners are still possible, and a big serve can still be useful.
The red clay courts actually have two variations…The red and the orange. Red clay is composed of crushed brick that is spread on top of a natural base. Red clay courts in the USA are truly red because the bricks in the USA are red. However, in Europe and in much of South America, the “red” clay courts actually appear somewhat orange. This is because the clay used to make the bricks in these areas is different from that in the USA. Yet, despite the color difference, red and orange clay courts play very similar.
Red (and orange) play very slowly. It’s difficult to hit winners and because of that your opponent has a better than average chance of getting to your impending power punch. The balls bounce a lot higher here than hard courts & any kind of spin is exaggerated on the red. Topspin is off the charts, kick serves pop and slice many times just dies – it’s so low.