Letters: Clay Can Develop Skills for Any Surface
To the Editor:
Jose Higueras has been in the news recently explaining how he, while growing up on the clay courts in Barcelona, learned all the necessary tools to become a world-class tennis player. And he hits the nail on the head! The ability to slide, maintain balance, control long rallies, develop agility and construct points were some of the components that helped him grow into an all-around athlete.
After settling in the U.S., he adapted and developed a hard-court game as well. The transition was pretty smooth since he already had “invested” so much in growing up on clay. He concludes that for young American players, the story is reversed. They grow up on hard courts and have a harder time developing skills for other surfaces at a later stage in their careers.
Growing up in the Netherlands, my development was similar to Higueras’. While I never competed on the pro tour, I do feel that my tennis game has solid “roots.” As youngsters, we were on the red clay courts all day. We were able to develop our athletic skills naturally, without really being aware of it.
The USTA (which recently hired Higueras as director of coaching for USTA Elite Player Development) has come to realize that utilizing clay courts in the development of young players will benefit and accelerate their learning process. I believe that this a great step forward.
What can we do as teaching pros? Tough question if you are teaching at a hard-court facility. However, if you are at a clay-court facility I urge you to host an official USTA Junior Clay Court Tournament. In our second year at the Portland Country Club in Maine, we hosted nearly 100 juniors, from seven states, during our Southern Maine Clay Court Championships. The kids had a blast, and they played on a surface that can help their games grow.
Director of Tennis
Portland (Maine) Country Club