French Open Court Surface
The nature of the four major international tennis tournaments held each year dictates that a different surface be prepared at each grand slam. Traditionally the French Open at Roland Garros has always been contested on the red clay of Europe, a surface renowned for its bounce and relative slowness.
This ongoing tradition of having markedly different surfaces at the four major tennis tournaments was taken a step further in 2008 when the hard Rebound Ace of the Australian Open was replaced by a brand new court surface known as Plexicushion simply because the Rebound Ace was too similar to the DecoTurf court surfaces at Flushing Meadows, the venue of the US Open.
Clay, like grass, demands a specific type of shot-making and movement, and those players who enjoy battling it out from the baseline and are more defensive in their style of play are generally much more adept on the surface than the booming serve and volley types.
Clay Favours the Western Grip
The surfaces of the courts at Roland Garros, including that of the centre court or Court Philippe Chatrier, are all made from crushed brick, hence the pink blush of the courts. All clay surfaces, be it the red clay of Europe and South America or the green clay of the United States, favour players who use the ‘western grip’, a grip that allows for more topspin.
Rafael Nadal, who is the current record holder for the most successive wins on clay, and has bagged four French Opens in a row, employs the western grip to great effect and can drive high bouncing balls with enormous power. He also moves remarkably well on clay, sliding into the ball during the stroke, instead of running and stopping before the shot, as on grass and hard court.