STUTTGART, Germany -- For Iga Swiatek, Paula Badosa and Maria Sakkari, a clay court feels like a second home. So you could understand the excitement from the three as the tour embarks on its latest swing. 

For Swiatek, clay was the home of her first WTA final at 2019 Lugano. A year later, she won Roland Garros without dropping a set.

Badosa earned her first win over a World No.1 on clay last year in Charleston before making her first 1000-level semifinal in Madrid, winning her first WTA title in Belgrade and making her first major quarterfinal at Roland Garros.

Sakkari also won her first WTA title on clay, at 2019 Rabat, and made her first major semifinal last year at Roland Garros. 

"I had a week off after Miami, so that really helped me to just get back on the tennis court, being excited for the clay season," Sakkari told reporters at Media Day at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, where she is seeded No.4. "I have to be deadly honest that this is probably my favorite swing of the season and I feel good."

Badosa has enjoyed a strong start of the season on hard courts, winning the title in Sydney and making the semifinals at Indian Wells and quarterfinals in Miami. "Well, expectations are always high now at the level that I am but I want to be very focused on day by day, enjoying it," Badosa said. "It’s going to be very tough. 

"You all know that clay court is my favorite surface, but that also makes it tricky because maybe they think you are even more favorite and now they play better against you."


Seeded No.2 in Stuttgart, Badosa has already felt the effects of being a favorite on the clay. In her first clay tournament of the season, she was tested throughout her run to the quarterfinals in Charleston, where she lost in three sets to eventual champion Belinda Bencic. 

"In clay, I have to be honest, I just played one tournament and it surprised me because I saw everyone playing very, very fast," Badosa told WTA Insider. "Maybe some years ago, it wasn't like that. So I think tennis is changing. It's always an evolution. And I think it's changing because people are stronger, they're moving better, and they're hitting harder, even bigger and bigger. It's getting very fast. 

"So I'm adapting myself. I'm seeing the players that are adapting as well. They're improving a lot on that. So I will have to improve on serving bigger, returning very fast as well and playing fast like them."

Sakkari agreed. Gone are the days where a purely physical, grinding style of game will guarantee success on the surface. Players who grew up on the clay are finding the need to incorporate the same aggressive mindset they employ on hard courts to the clay. 

"I think on clay, you have to be very athletic and fit because points are long and matches can last very long," Sakkari said. "I like to hit my forehand just heavy and spinny, but there's not a lot of difference in the game style than playing on a hard court because you still have to be aggressive. Everyone's going to come out and just hit big. 

"So I'm just doing small adjustments, like the height over the net in both shots, but still trying to approach the net a lot, and maybe kicking the serve a little bit more depending on who I play. But still just going after my serve and after my shots." 

This clay season promises to be a particularly interesting one for Swiatek and Badosa. Both players broke new ground in their hard-court games this season by adjusting their games to the faster surface. When asked how those adjustments might alter their approach to clay, both players are taking a wait-and-see approach. 

"I mean I’ve been playing on clay for two days, so I don’t know," Swiatek said. "But for sure having more variety and being able to attack and also being able to play the same kind of tennis I was playing last year, like higher top spin, having these two options is really helpful because I can adjust and choose the best kind of game to play against my opponent. 

"Honestly, I think I can do both things and the biggest challenge is going to be when I’m going to choose the right tactics or right skill. So I feel more confident right now and I feel like I have just more options. It’s kind of the same as it was on hard court."

Badosa echoed Swiatek's curiosity.

"That's a tough question right now because I'm still discovering myself, so I don't really know how I play [on clay]," Badosa said. "I know I play good on the baseline, I have big strokes, I try to be aggressive. But at the same time, I'm trying to find this balance of good movement, defending well. I try to be solid and find that balance, to be solid but as well aggressive. 

"Maybe sometimes I need to be a little bit more aggressive in the levels that I'm talking about because against players like Iga, Aryna, the top players, you need to have that aggressive mentality but at the same time solid. So I think I have to improve a little bit more in being a little bit more aggressive.

"The thing that I know 100 percent is that I'm a fighter. I try to fight every point, every match, no matter what."  

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