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Under the court...

The origins of the clay court

The clay court is supposedly an English invention. At the end of the 19th century, William Renshaw was giving tennis lessons on grass courts in Cannes, but due to the sun, the grass tended to burn and lose its lustre.

To protect the grass, Renshaw decided to cover it with a thin layer of red powder which was obtained from grinding down rejects from the clay pots manufactured in the town Vallauris in the south of France. And thus, the clay court was born.

Two tons of red brick are needed to cover a clay court.

Composition of a clay court at Roland-Garros

Red brick dust: 1 – 2 mm
Crushed white limestone: 6 – 7 cm
Clinker (coal residue): 7 – 8 cm
Crushed gravel: at least  30 cm

The French Open is played on clay – a surface which owes its ochre colour to the covering of crushed brick.

Clay is the slowest of surfaces and is favoured by certain players – primarily Spaniards and South Americans – who grew up on the red dirt and learned how to use it to good effect.

Court maintenance during the tournament

Every morning: uncover the courts, sweep the lines
During the matches, between each set: check the net, sweep the lines
At the end of each match: check the net, sweep the lines, water the courts
Every evening: water the courts