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A variety of surfaces can be used to create a tennis court, each with its own characteristics which affect the playing style of the game.
There are four main types of courts depending on the materials used for the court surface: clay courts, hard courts, grass courts, and carpet courts.
In this article we will focus on clay courts and the best tennis balls for clay courts.
Clay courts are made crushed shale, stone or brick.
Since clay courts slow down the ball and produce a high bounce in comparison to grass or hard courts, finding the right tennis ball for a clay court is important.
Some interesting facts about clay courts include:
- The clay court takes away many of the advantages of big serves, making it hard for serve based players to dominate on the surface.
- Clay courts are more common in Europe and Latin America than in North America, and tend to heavily favor baseline players. The French Open is the only Grand Slam Tournament to use clay courts.
- Clay courts are cheaper to construct than any other type of tennis court but cost more to maintain. The clay courts need to be rolled to preserve flatness and the water content must be balanced.
Can clay courts be used in indoor courts?
Indoor courts allow players to play regardless of weather conditions. More comfortable for spectators, some prefer indoor courts.
Because of the lack of wind, game play is considerably different than outdoor courts.
Hard courts are the most common indoors because they are made with the most versatile materials and surface finishes.
Clay courts are installed indoors with underground watering systems, and mostly used for Davis Cup matches. The Davis cup is the premier international event in men’s tennis. It is described by its organizers as the “World Cup of Tennis”.
How to play on clay courts
Check out this short video on how to play on clay courts.
A few factors to consider when playing on clay include:
- Patience: Playing tennis on clay courts takes a lot of patience. The game is played at a much slower pace.
- Good shot selections: Making good shot selections is important; you have to wait for the right ball.
- Tolerance: Because it takes more time in building up the point, rallies can last a lot longer on clay. This also means you must have a high tolerance for staying in the game.
- Learning how to slide: Your front foot must be pointed in the direction that you are sliding in order to allow you to slide properly. Sliding with your foot perpendicular to the net can cause serious injury.
- Learning how to stop: When stopping you must put more weight on your front foot.
Seniors playing on clay courts
The sooner a senior starts playing on clay courts, the better it is on their joints. Clay surfaces are one of the most forgiving surfaces, making them ideal for seniors who have ankle, hip, or knee issues.
Tennis requires a lot of quick movements. Clay surfaces make it easier to stop and change directions quickly without your body absorbing too much shock.
This significantly reduces the risk of injury while ensuring enjoyment of the game and healthy exercise.
Playing on a clay court also cuts down on the heat index. While a hard court heats up like crazy on a hot day, a clay court is dirt and it is watered regularly.
The biggest growth in USTA (United States Tennis Association) tennis is with seniors. Most of these seniors (and ‘super seniors’) are playing on clay courts.
Now that we know a lot about clay courts in general, let’s find the best tennis balls for playing on clay.
Tennis balls have evolved substantially over the last several years. Much money has been spent on the development of new technology for tennis balls.
Tennis balls are made all over the world though primarily in the US and Europe.
As we mentioned, there are many variety of surfaces that tennis is played on and different balls suit different surfaces better than others.
Choosing a tennis ball that is an ideal fit comes down to your own requirements and expectations, however, playing on clay means choosing a ball most suited for a clay surface.
Clay courts are softer courts and regular duty tennis balls are a great choice. The thickness of the felt is thinner on regular duty balls to allow for play on clay surfaces.
A great example is the Wilson US OPEN regular duty tennis ball. You can view the Wilson WRT1073CS US Open Regular Duty Ball Case at Amazon to learn more about this ball and how it might work for your needs.
The subtle differences in the regular duty and the extra duty balls directly affect the speed, bounce, and durability of the ball.
Regular duty balls are used for clay and indoor courts while extra duty balls are used for hard courts.
The difference between extra duty and regular duty
The balls are similar in size and weight and must bounce between 53 and 58 inches when dropped from a height of 100 inches. The only difference is the felt.
The felt of the extra duty ball has a high nylon content combined with wool, a looser weave and is slightly thicker than the regular duty.
The felt of the regular duty ball has higher wool content and a shorter nap.
Regular duty balls are designed for play on clay as well as indoor courts. Clay courts are not as hard on regular duty balls.
Because of a tighter weave and less fluff, regular duty balls don’t pick up as much of the clay material. This keeps the ball from becoming much heavier over the course of a match.
Over the course of a match, the regular duty ball fluffs very little. This makes the ball play faster and move quicker due to less air friction.
Additional fluff causes the ball to sit on the strings longer, which creates the sensation that the ball is heavier.
Best Tennis Ball for Clay Courts
Most tennis balls made for clay courts will also be labeled as “good for indoor courts.”
Keep in mind that the two go hand-in-hand when searching for your tennis balls for clay. Always check with an industry professional before using any new product for your game.
Pro Penn Marathon Regular Duty Tennis Balls (1-Case)
This case of Marathon regular duty balls contains 12 cans of three balls each for a total of 36 balls designed for maximum playability on clay and indoor courts.
The ball is approved for play in both USTA and ITF competition.
The Pro Penn Marathon is Penn’s longest lasting tennis ball. They feature encore technology for 22% longer lasting core.
Pro Penn also features high tenacity, ‘Long Play’ felt for extended play, and ‘Smart Optik’ felt for optimum visibility.
The regular-duty felt balls are perfect for playing on clay.
Because of less felt, as we mentioned, the fluff is not an issue with the Penn Marathon balls.
Many balls in this category can die after an hour to two hours of hard hitting. Not the Pro Penn Marathon!
These balls have long lasting bounce and do not wear down.
View at Amazon to learn more about how these balls may work for use on a clay court.
US Open 3 Ball Can – Regular Duty
From the manufacturer:
- For the past 40 years, every point scored at the US Open has been scored with a Wilson US Open tennis ball.
- Unparalleled consistency and performance make it the gold standard in tennis, trusted by the best in the game when it’s all on the line.
- Crafted with premium woven felt, this ball is available in extra duty, regular duty and high altitude variations.
- These balls last 3-4 times longer than other balls after opening the can.
- Much livelier than most regular duty balls
- Great durability and consistent bounce
- Wilson lasts longer than other balls so you get an even ball bounce throughout your match. Other balls are inconsistent and bounce differently as the match progresses.
- For players of all levels, but perfect for heavy hitters
View at Amazon to learn more about the potential use of these balls for clay courts.
Featured image credit: DepositPhotos.com @Maxisports