Mal: Americans need to make effort to learn to play on red clay [Archive] - MensTennisForums.com

Mal: Americans need to make effort to learn to play on red clay

Tennis Fool
05-26-2004, 10:33 PM
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Americans hurt by perception

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
By MaliVai Washington
Special to ESPN.com

PARIS -- It's hard to explain with the number of American men in the draw how a single one could not advance past the second round of the French Open. You could have gotten some tremendous Las Vegas odds against that happening.

Logic cannot explain why Andre Agassi loses to an ATP qualifier who had never won an ATP match in his life before. Nor how Andy Roddick could be up two sets to one, only to lose the match.

I talked to Vince Spadea after his loss, and he appeared to be in disbelief that he had lost his match to a qualifier. With the draw rapidly opening up in front of him, Spadea recognized this as his opportunity to advance to the second week of the French Open for the first time. He seemed just as disappointed about the missed opportunity as the lost match.

This year, more than previous years, it was very evident how vulnerable the U.S. players are on Europe's red clay. So although no one came into this tournament feeling that the Americans were the favorite, nobody thought they'd make history by being out of it on Day 3.

Success on the men's tour has a lot to do with confidence. If you genuinely believe that you're good on a certain surface and bad on another surface that will most likely prove to be the case. Additionally, many non-Americans feel they should not lose to the U.S. players on clay.

There came a point in Pete Sampras' career when players, who knew they didn't stand a chance on grass against him, felt like they could beat Sampras on clay. He didn't have that air of invincibility on the dirt. So players took the court against Sampras thinking, "this is my opportunity to beat the great Pete Sampras."

Players today feel the same way about Andy Roddick, Robby Ginepri, Jan-Michael Gambill, Mardy Fish, James Blake and others. It's almost as if once a player draws an American player on red clay, he feels like he was given a good draw. The only way that perception will ever change is if the American players commit to playing on red clay and improving their clay-court style.

They can't just look at the clay-court season as a time of year just to get through. There has to be a concerted effort to succeed on red clay. And that might mean sacrificing parts of the hard-court season or the indoor season. And it will be a sacrifice. But that's the only way for the Americans to make any in-roads into this perception.

The Spaniards learned to succeed on hard courts, and they sacrificed to do it. That's what the Americans have to be willing to do.

MaliVai Washington, a tennis analyst for ESPN, reached the 1996 Wimbledon final.

J. Corwin
05-26-2004, 10:40 PM
...or the Americans just plain suck and can't do anything about it. ;) Of course they can change their schedules and make those sacrifices, but I don't see any of them making such sacrifices any time soon.

TennisLurker
05-26-2004, 10:43 PM
Malivai is so insightful!

RAH!

----------------------


A question to americans

is it true that a lot of the american players like Roddick grew up playing tournaments on green clay? shouldnt they be better on the red stuff?

Do you think that having again in the usa tournaments like atlanta or boston would be good to improve the clay game of the american players?

RodFan08
05-26-2004, 10:52 PM
I totally agree. There's no reason why the American women can play on clay and the men can not. They need to think about their weaknesses and how to improve them because the claycourters seem to bring their weaknesses out on this suface. For instance Gambill, not the quickest guy on the tour, relys on power. And Roddicks inability to be patient really cost him in the 5th set today. They need to learn how to construct points better and be patient (except Spadea). I agree that devoting a little more time to play on clay is a good idea for most if not all of them.;)

Alan
05-26-2004, 10:52 PM
TRUE! Vamos Spain! hehehe ;)

Socket
05-26-2004, 11:07 PM
Malivai is so insightful!

RAH!

----------------------


A question to americans

is it true that a lot of the american players like Roddick grew up playing tournaments on green clay? shouldnt they be better on the red stuff?

Do you think that having again in the usa tournaments like atlanta or boston would be good to improve the clay game of the american players?


Most commentators I've heard on television have said that green clay plays differently from red clay, and differently enough so that it's not a good training surface for red. Supposedly, green clay doesn't play as slow as red clay.

IMO, the most important factor in improving American players' record on red clay is to have the players grow up playing on it. Having a few red clay tournaments at the senior level won't be as helpful, because by then, it's too late, and the players won't think they can win (I don't think that Roddick believes he can win on red clay a major). Chang and Agassi played on red clay when they were juniors, so they had confidence on the surface.

Tennis Fool
05-26-2004, 11:16 PM
Evert, the French Open Queen, grew up playing on clay, but was it red or green?

Socket
05-26-2004, 11:31 PM
Evert, the French Open Queen, grew up playing on clay, but was it red or green?

That's a very good question ... I don't know for sure. There aren't many red clay courts in Florida (although Nick Bollettieri's academy has them), so I'm going to guess green. Her dad taught her to play on public courts, which would have been green clay. But I don't think that Chris wasn't competing against a lot of Spanish or South American players who grew up on red clay, either . . .

Lisbeth
05-26-2004, 11:44 PM
Stay tuned for the next insightful article "Why Spanish players should make an effort to turn up to Wimbledon every year (even though they never win it)". So true and yet so obvious!

Seriously though, I do think that the "hardcourt" countries, and I include Australia in that, need to expose their kids to more clay. It's as big an oversight in training well-rounded tennis players as, say, just not bothering to teach them to volley.

jrm
05-26-2004, 11:49 PM
Most of them don't even slide on the clay ...

Ballbuster
05-26-2004, 11:51 PM
If Safin and Kafelnikov and Federer can play on all surfaces, then why can't the American men do the same?

Tennis Fool
05-26-2004, 11:58 PM
The Russians were trained on red clay in Spain...Not sure about Fed's training...

Socket
05-27-2004, 12:01 AM
If Safin and Kafelnikov and Federer can play on all surfaces, then why can't the American men do the same?

Good question. Didn't Safin spent several years in Spain as a junior, playing on red clay at a big academy there?

Lisbeth
05-27-2004, 12:01 AM
There's a suggestion around that it's easier to learn on clay and move to other surfaces than the other way round. Hewitt said something like this recently but I've heard it before. I think sliding is one of the keys, but obviously there must be more to it than just that.

Of course, Agassi is a very decent clay player, this year aside! So it is possible.

trixy
05-27-2004, 12:26 AM
I think every1 knows the Americans, Australias ectra need to improve on the red stuff. Mal points out the obvious yet again.

I think its really important that more kids grow up playing more on clay because not only will they develop their clay court skills, its also alot less harder on the body compared to hardcourts. I mean im not sure about this but I think Lleyton Hewitt said once he didnt play on clay till he was 15 or 16! I mean they go on about clay court specialists but i think plenty of so called 'claycourters' have proven themselves on hardcourt and now its a matter of the 'hardcourters' doing the same on clay.

However, me thinks that European players will continue to dominate the clay season because no1 really can be bothered making the scheduling sacrifices.

Shy
05-27-2004, 02:14 AM
The Russians were trained on red clay in Spain...Not sure about Fed's training...
He grow up on clay too.

Action Jackson
05-27-2004, 02:22 AM
Federer played 6 months of year on clay and 6 months indoors.
Kafelnikov grew up on clay.

The American players don't care about improving on clay, and if they don't care about something, they are not going to do it.

Tennis Fool
05-27-2004, 02:23 AM
Anyone know about Courier and Chang?

Action Jackson
05-27-2004, 02:25 AM
TF, No major American players grew up playing on red clay.

Tennis Fool
05-27-2004, 02:32 AM
What I meant is Courier and Chang did something right to do well at the FO...What did they do that this new crop cant?

Action Jackson
05-27-2004, 02:36 AM
What I meant is Courier and Chang did something right to do well at the FO...What did they do that this new crop cant?

Mentally stronger for one at their respective bests, between 89-93 the level on claycourt tennis wasn't as high as previously, and wasn't as high now, so they took advantage of that. This has been discussed on another thread, plus they did have games that were able to adjust on clay during that time.

Winston's Human
05-27-2004, 02:58 AM
Such words of insight and wisdom from the great Mal Washington who burned up the red clay of Roland Garros with a stellar 5-7 record -- advancing past the second round only once in seven tries and losing four times in the first round.

LCeh
05-27-2004, 03:01 AM
Such words of insight and wisdom from the great Mal Washington who burned up the red clay of Roland Garros with a stellar 5-7 record -- advancing past the second round only once in seven tries and losing four times in the first round.

:haha: :haha: :haha: :bigcry:

Action Jackson
05-27-2004, 03:07 AM
Such words of insight and wisdom from the great Mal Washington who burned up the red clay of Roland Garros with a stellar 5-7 record -- advancing past the second round only once in seven tries and losing four times in the first round.

So true, but at least he was better than Brad Gilbert on clay.

Ballbuster
05-27-2004, 03:10 AM
Does anyone grow up on grass? I don't know about foreign countries but the only grass courts I can think of in the US are right here at Westside and at the Hall of Fame in Newport

YoursTruly
05-27-2004, 03:40 AM
Sorry but I thought this issue and complaint was sooooo mid-90s!

Winston's Human
05-27-2004, 03:48 AM
So true, but at least he was better than Brad Gilbert on clay.

True. Mal's 5-7 records at Roland Garros is marginally better than Brad's 5-8 record.

However, to read his commentary, you would think he was some sort of stellar clay court player like Muster or Bruguera.

star
05-27-2004, 04:02 AM
Chris Evert played a lot on green clay in Florida. But her father was a teaching pro at a club. He taught her at his club and not on public courts.

Chang was really fast and that helped him on clay, but really wasn't his overall record better on hardcourts than on clay? He had that great year at RG winning it, but did he come close to winning it again? I always think of Courier as more of a clay court player than Chang. Courier was incredibly fit. I think that is a big factor playing on clay. It's a mind set more than anything, I think. Winning on clay takes more concentration and patience and endurance than any other surface. That's one of the reasons I love it. I'm very sad about Andy because when I first started liking him he won back to back tournaments on clay (green and red) I thought finally! Another American who will do well on clay.

But I agree, the U.S. juniors need to have clay tournaments. They should have a junior clay court championship. Houston can host it.

Supersonik
05-27-2004, 04:03 AM
True. Mal's 5-7 records at Roland Garros is marginally better than Brad's 5-8 record.

However, to read his commentary, you would think he was some sort of stellar clay court player like Muster or Bruguera.

I agree with GWH, they don't care about improving on clay too much, and they don't feel the need to do it as well, so they won't be bothered about it too much.

star
05-27-2004, 04:05 AM
I think that is the way the Spanish and South Americans feel about grass pretty much. :lol:

It's just that grass has become an anachronism on the tour. Players only play about two tournaments a year on grass. Kind of weird.

Lisbeth
05-27-2004, 06:22 AM
The thing that amuses me is that the Aussies and Americans carry on like this every year as if clay is some new-fangled concept which has suddenly been foisted on the unsuspecting. LOL, there's been clay in Paris for a lot longer than there's been certain other surfaces at certain other grand slams!

Lalitha
05-27-2004, 08:34 AM
I think they should start to learn to play on clay. If you look at the Spanish and the Argentine players they have learnt to play on hard courts. Its time that US and Aussie players too learn to play on clay.

Chloe le Bopper
05-27-2004, 09:48 AM
Stay tuned for the next insightful article "Why Spanish players should make an effort to turn up to Wimbledon every year (even though they never win it)". So true and yet so obvious!

Seriously though, I do think that the "hardcourt" countries, and I include Australia in that, need to expose their kids to more clay. It's as big an oversight in training well-rounded tennis players as, say, just not bothering to teach them to volley.

ahem... the Spaniards do play. Moya, Corretja and Costa sometimes don't ;)

Anyways, this is an area that I really give Hewitt credit for. He's done awfully well for a guy who apparently had never played on clay until about 6 years ago. Furthermore, despite that fact that Hewitt is a lot easier to beat on clay, he does not put in any less work during his clay matches than on hardcourt, at least not in my experience watching him. He is still out there fighting. I've never seen a disgusting fifth set tank from him, that's for sure.

Chloe le Bopper
05-27-2004, 09:54 AM
Most commentators I've heard on television have said that green clay plays differently from red clay, and differently enough so that it's not a good training surface for red. Supposedly, green clay doesn't play as slow as red clay.

IMO, the most important factor in improving American players' record on red clay is to have the players grow up playing on it. Having a few red clay tournaments at the senior level won't be as helpful, because by then, it's too late, and the players won't think they can win (I don't think that Roddick believes he can win on red clay a major). Chang and Agassi played on red clay when they were juniors, so they had confidence on the surface.

It would help if the American players were given more exposure to the red clay as they were developing, but I don't think it's a necessity. Great players adapt and grow. They don't throw in the towel when the going gets tough and things are unfamiliar.

As I already noted, Hewitt has done awfully decent for a guy who didn't grow up on clay.

I have no idea when Ferrero first played on grass, but I don't assume he had much practice on it growing up. Somebody correct me if I'm mistaken. That didn't stop him from making the fourth round at Wimbledon, and I happed to think that with the right draw he might have another round in him one of these years.

I'm pretty sure that Nalbandian didn't grow up on grass either, but that hasn't stopped him from winning 9 matches at Wimbledon the past two years.

You can't really compare grass to clay directly as I have tried to here, since the grass season is so short that there aren't as many contenders... but my point is just that great players adapt and grow, and until Roddick makes the adjusments and shows that he's interested in growing as a player past smacking his serve harder and improving on hardcourts, then I don't really have much respect for him. Give me a Ferrero or a Coria anyday, thanks.

(*ahem* I'm using the term "great player" for lack of a better decriptor. I'm not not implying that Hewitt, Nalbandian and Ferrero are "greats". It pains me to have to explain this, but Lord knows that somebody around here would have read that wrong the way)

Vass
05-27-2004, 10:06 AM
The answer is not only in the fact that there are no courts in USA. Williams sisters, Capriati, Davenport in women's game all play on clay well. Don't tell me thay lived in spain.

Chloe le Bopper
05-27-2004, 10:32 AM
Surface specialization is less of an issue on the WTA.

One could also argue that the talent pool is not as deep. The top women don't need to bring their best against most lower ranked players, even if said players grew up on clay and the top player did not, because they are so much better that it makes up for what they lack in clay expertise.

Chloe le Bopper
05-27-2004, 10:34 AM
^^ more on that.

The WTA doesn't exactly have an unseeded player ala Gaudio lurking around the draw who would be a legitimate threat to win the entire thing if they had more belief (and less choking, but the two are related).

So making comparisons between the American men and women are not particularly useful, because the differences in the tours are very pronounced on clay.

Socket
05-27-2004, 01:07 PM
The answer is not only in the fact that there are no courts in USA. Williams sisters, Capriati, Davenport in women's game all play on clay well. Don't tell me thay lived in spain.

I think that's just one of the ways in which women's tennis differs from men's tennis. The surface seems to matter less.

Yashirobai
05-27-2004, 01:29 PM
I read that since 1968 it didn't happen. No americans in the third round of a Grand Slam (not only Roland Garros) did not happen sinc 1968. Woow...

Hokit
05-27-2004, 01:59 PM
If Safin and Kafelnikov and Federer can play on all surfaces, then why can't the American men do the same?

Neither Safin nor Kafelnikov have been impressive on grass. At least Agassi's won a major clay court tournament before - i.e. the French Open.

What big grass events have Safin and Kafelnikov won?

drf716
05-27-2004, 02:34 PM
you should try playing tennis in soil... it's fun!!

alfonsojose
05-27-2004, 04:36 PM
Mal, you're a genious. We were clueless about this :rolleyes:

Deboogle!.
05-27-2004, 05:00 PM
A question to americans

is it true that a lot of the american players like Roddick grew up playing tournaments on green clay? shouldnt they be better on the red stuff?

Do you think that having again in the usa tournaments like atlanta or boston would be good to improve the clay game of the american players?

Yes, yes, and I'm not really so sure.

PMac was talking last night about how the "Florida boys" (he mentioned Courier and also Spadea and Andy) are at a better advantage because there are many more clay courts. Aaron Krickstein has a club in Boca with red clay, since Brad said that's where Andy was practicing before they went to Paris. Houston, of course, is played on real Terre Battue brought in from France, but the problem is that pretty much only Americans PLAY that tournament, so the guys don't get the practice against the people who really can play on it, for the most part.

I think Andy's played enough on clay in the US. And he plays well on clay in the US, never losing before the finals on clay in the US (incl. winning his first two titles on green and red clay respectively and making the finals in all his appearances in Houston.). I'm sure part of it is his comfort in playing in the US that helps make up for the lack of confidence where the surface is concerned.

But point-blank they need to be playing on the clay IN EUROPE with the people who can really play on it. I know it'd kill the Houston tournament and that's too bad because it's a nice event, but playing in Estoril or Valencia or Barcelona instead would do worlds of good for them. Plus they all need to be healthy and play the TMS events, of course.

But as Roger said on ESPN today, it's just a matter of practice practice practice and playing as many good clay tournaments as possible - and thusfar not one of the young Americans has made that commitment. Someone like Andy will never be a Coria or Ferrero or Moya, but if he had the confidence and the patience that would come from playing as much as possible, I believe he could do well on clay. But thusfar he hasn't put in the effort. He talks about it a lot and says "well I just have to do it and get better" but so far those have been empty words:o

Chloe le Bopper
05-27-2004, 06:54 PM
And he plays well on clay in the US, never losing before the finals on clay in the US (incl. winning his first two titles on green and red clay respectively and making the finals in all his appearances in Houston.). I'm sure part of it is his comfort in playing in the US that helps make up for the lack of confidence where the surface is concerned.


A bigger factor than the crowd and local, imo, is the opposition. Consider who his best wins ever in those events are (Coria back in 2002 when he was a few tournaments back from his injury/suspension and ranked in the middle of nowhere?). Consider who plays them. I don't doubt that the crowd helps him get over some of the lower ranked opponents that he might not be able to beat at Roland Garros, but I don't think that is the main factor for his success there.

Deboogle!.
05-27-2004, 06:56 PM
A bigger factor than the crowd and local, imo, is the opposition. Consider who his best wins ever in those events are (Coria back in 2002 when he was a few tournaments back from his injury/suspension and ranked in the middle of nowhere?). Consider who plays them. I don't doubt that the crowd helps him get over some of the lower ranked opponents that he might not be able to beat at Roland Garros, but I don't think that is the main factor for his success there.

yea I know, that's why I said this

"Houston, of course, is played on real Terre Battue brought in from France, but the problem is that pretty much only Americans PLAY that tournament, so the guys don't get the practice against the people who really can play on it, for the most part."

I wasn't trying to suggest that he plays well only because it's the US, the field of players is surely the bigger factor, my fault for not being clear enough :)

heya
05-27-2004, 10:37 PM
Pizza guy had a difficult draw at Australian Open & won a slam right after his 21st birthday.
He won't lose, between 20 and 24 years old, to
Di Pasquale, Bastl, Golmard, Robredo, Ilie, Ulihrach, Gonzalez, Koubek, Voinea, Escude, Gaudio, Kucera, Sluiter, Vahaly, Guccione, Carraz on a favourite surface,
Andreev in Roland Garros, Puerta, Pavel, Blanco, Portas, Lapentti, Alberto Martin, Sanchez, Ljubicic, Calleri, Horna, Zabaleta, Safin & Verdasco on his favourite surface.

Chloe le Bopper
05-27-2004, 11:56 PM
yea I know, that's why I said this

"Houston, of course, is played on real Terre Battue brought in from France, but the problem is that pretty much only Americans PLAY that tournament, so the guys don't get the practice against the people who really can play on it, for the most part."

I wasn't trying to suggest that he plays well only because it's the US, the field of players is surely the bigger factor, my fault for not being clear enough :)
To be honest, I only skimmed your post. I wasn't in an essay reading mood. Nothing personal. Anyways, my bad. Thanks for the clarification.

Lisbeth
05-28-2004, 12:08 AM
ahem... the Spaniards do play. Moya, Corretja and Costa sometimes don't ;)

Anyways, this is an area that I really give Hewitt credit for. He's done awfully well for a guy who apparently had never played on clay until about 6 years ago. Furthermore, despite that fact that Hewitt is a lot easier to beat on clay, he does not put in any less work during his clay matches than on hardcourt, at least not in my experience watching him. He is still out there fighting. I've never seen a disgusting fifth set tank from him, that's for sure.

Yes, they do turn up, particularly lately. I didn't phrase that well, sorry. I just saw a parallel with the problem a few years back which had SOME Spanish/South American players turn up to Wimbledon once every couple of years, often with no grass practice, lose early then not come back the next year (or come back and have the same thing happen again) because they didn't care about grass because they didn't do well the previous year. Vicious circle which apparently also applies to Americans and others on clay.

I noticed he wasn't always there because I always though Moya could have been a really good grass player if he played on it more.

LOL about Lleyton ... yep, you'd having trouble making out a case against him as a quitter.