Clay can be the most physically demanding of all the surfaces. Here are some tips from clay-court legend Chris Evert, as well as from former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, and a leading fitness trainer and coach.
Mark Hodgkinson
April 19, 2018

Invest in a pair of rollerblades. 
“The muscles you use while rollerblading are the muscles which are going to help you on a clay court," fitness trainer Jean-Pierre Bruyere, who has worked with Victoria Azarenka, told me. 

Understand you need to be extremely fit to succeed on clay. 
"You have to appreciate that on clay, you’re probably going to have to play three or four more shots to finish the point off," Chris Evert, a winner of seven French Open titles, told me. "You’re going to play a lot more balls than you would do on grass or hard courts where it’s easier to hit outright winners. It's not easy putting opponents away on clay, so you just have to break your opponent down. That could mean a lot of running."

Bruyere had the same message: “Cardiovascular is so important on clay as you’re going to be playing much longer points than on other surfaces. You just have to accept that."

You'll need at least a week's practice on clay before your body adjusts to the new surface. 
"Probably the best way of getting used to playing matches on clay is to practise on the surface as the first few days on clay are about adapting, and the activation and strengthening of the muscles," Bruyere said. "It should take you about seven days to be used to playing on the clay again.”

Francesca Schiavone (Getty)
Francesca Schiavone kisses the Roland Garros clay (Getty)

Consider extending the length of your practice and gym sessions. 
"For clay, the practices get a little bit longer than usual,” Francesca Schiavone, a former French Open champion, told Baseline. "Usually on hard courts, you start, stop, go back and stop. Clay is softer and matches are longer, so we practice a little bit longer. In the gym it’s similar. You do weights, but you don’t do heavy weights. But you do weights for a little bit longer, and a little bit lighter.”

Movement is key on clay. 
"Being able to move properly and efficiently is another key component to being a great clay court player. Sliding is a major part of this," Rob Steckley, who coached Lucie Safarova to a French Open final, told me. "Being able to slide into shots allows players to recover quickly and more efficiently on clay and set up for shots a lot more easily. Using the slide enables players to keep on making their opponents play one more ball and that will make it harder for opponents to end points, and that's going to test their patience. If a player doesn't have the feel for the slide, it makes it that much harder to be ready during points."  

Lucie Safarova serves to Serena Williams in the 2015 French Open final (Getty)
Lucie Safarova serves to Serena Williams in the 2015 French Open final (Getty)

Do as many push-ups as you can. 
“You’re not going to like them, but they really help you prepare for clay," said Bruyere. 

Pay attention to your core and improving your flexibility. 
“The core is important as there’s going to be lots of extension," said Bruyere. "Being able to slide on court, and being flexible, that’s a huge advantage.”

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This is an editorial. Views expressed do not represent those of WTA Sports Sciences.