Monday, 25 October 2010

Clay is the way

So often accused of having feet of clay, Australian tennis officials are finally set to use the surface to kick-start a revolution in the game.

Incoming Tennis Australia (TA) president Steve Healy has announced bold plans to build high-quality clay courts, and develop young talent able to compete at the highest level on the surface.

TA will spend $1 million to build and maintain eight clay courts at the redeveloped Melbourne Park complex, and encourage further clay venues to be built in all states.

Healy, who officially started in the job on Monday in the long-planned succession to retiring Geoff Pollard, said investment in high-cost clay courts was critical to developing young players capable of competing with the world's best.

"Clay courts are the Sheffield Shield of Australian tennis," said Healy, a Sydney lawyer who replaces 21-year veteran Pollard at the top of the sport.

"It isn't going to make money, but it's a critical part of player development.

"We want to ensure at the national high performance academy level there are clay courts in every state so we can develop our juniors on clay.

"So much of the game is now played on clay. And it's also important to minimise injuries among our young players - it's well proven it's a more forgiving surface."

Clay courts, which play at a slower speed and have a higher bounce than Australia's more prevalent hardcourts, are also credited with teaching young players more patience and better shot selection.

More than 30 top-level men's and women's tournaments are played on clay worldwide, headed by the French Open.

Healy has a three-point manifesto for tennis under his stewardship - targeting grassroots development, participation levels and producing better top-level players.

"I would really like to see more people playing tennis, that's absolutely key," Healy said.

"I would also love to have a top 10 player, though I don't know if that's realistic in a three-year time-frame but certainly in a five-year time-frame.

"We will be ensuring the very best of opportunities to transition (elite players) to that sort of stage."

Courtesy: Ninemsn

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