Adapting to hard courts
Originally published on: 22/08/13 00:00
Rafael Nadal’s astonishing run on the clay and Andy Murray’s glorious home victory at Wimbledon are consigned to the history books as the players acclimatise themselves to the hard courts after a summer spent on dirt and turf.
For some, it is the most natural of transitions having grown up on the hard courts, while for others it takes more time to adjust.
ASICS ambassador Gael Monfils struggled with a knee injury for most of the 2012 season, and the Frenchman admits the hard courts can take their toll.
“From a physical point of view, hard courts are very challenging for your joints,” Monfils told tennishead. “All you need to do is to spend hours on the court practising your game and then you adjust naturally. You need to be a little more proactive in the way you direct the point.”
Meanwhile, ASICS ambassador Sam Stosur, who won the US Open title at Flushing Meadows in 2011, says she does not take long to get used to the hard courts.
“I am quite experienced now between changing surfaces, so I know my game well and the small things I need to tweak to feel comfortable,” she said. “I don’t believe I need to radically change anything; it’s more just about small adjustments.”
The surface that many players begin their tennis careers on as youngsters, hard courts produce a smooth, firm surface producing a clean predictable bounce, making the courts ideal for beginners.
But as Rafael Nadal will attest, the surface is the least forgiving on the joints. The arms endure greater stress because faster courts do not absorb any pace of the ball, while the hard surface is tough on knees and hips.
“On hard courts the ball doesn’t bounce as high as it does on clay but it is a lot faster,” explains Lucy Dean, Head of Junior Tennis at Coolhurst Tennis Club in north London.
“If you compare that to grass where the ball speed is really fast but the ball doesn’t bounce as high. On hard courts you tend to get pretty long rallies, much longer than on grass and as the surface is fast it suits the hard hitters.
“But it’s tough on the body too, especially for the older generation who are used to playing on a softer surface. The impact on the hard courts as you move around the court can cause discomfort in your joints.”
Gael Monfils and Sam Stosur are both ASICS ambassadors. If you have any questions for the ASICS experts, from technique to technology, email us at [email protected]. The best questions will be answered in the next issue of tennishead.