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Judy Murray's tips and drills

Judy Murray
Judy Murray
LTA performance manager and Andy's mother

Hard courts take centre stage at the Australian Open and the US Open.

Although they are slightly different surfaces they have similar characteristics. But what difference does it make compared to grass or clay courts?

Basically, the surface will affect four things:

  • The speed of the ball after it bounces
  • The amount of spin/kick the ball will take on contact with the surface
  • The height of the bounce
  • And the players' level of traction on court.

    Ball speed

    In terms of the speed of the ball and height of the bounce, clay is the slowest and highest while grass is the fastest and lowest (apart from some indoor carpet courts) and hard courts sit somewhere in the middle.

    Hard courts will offer the truest bounce as the surface is always even but they can be pretty unforgiving and will put a lot of strain on the body - especially the legs.

    It's really important to stretch thoroughly before and after play.

    But they do allow for firm footing, unlike clay and grass. The court manufacturers have softened hard courts up in recent years by adding extra layers of rubber to the under surface.

    This can make the ball bounce a bit higher and can, in some cases, slow the ball down.

    Hard courts are especially unkind to tennis balls. Start your game with new balls and half an hour later they can be almost bald.

    This change in the ball characteristic can also bring a change in the height of the bounce and speed of the ball so you have to keep adapting to that. Similarly if you are playing at altitude, the ball will bounce significantly higher.

    Conditions are often hot and humid during the American hard court season and can be pretty brutal in certain parts of the country - the temperature rose to 100 degrees at the Cincinnati Masters Series!

    If you play in this type of heat at midday for example, you can expect the ball to be travelling pretty quickly through the air but if you play in the cool of the evening, it will be significantly slower.

    Andy Roddick
    You will see lots of inside-out and inside-in forehands as players have time to run round their backhands

    Judy Murray

    So preparation for the outdoor hard court season is crucial.

    Physical conditioning will be a deciding factor in many matches and proper hydration and nutrition can often provide an edge to performance. Mental toughness in the heat can also affect the outcome of matches.

    It is also important to invest in good hard court shoes as the surface is particularly tough on the feet and it's easy to wear out shoes quickly on this surface.

    Medium-fast hard courts will suit the aggressive all-court player which is probably the category that most Americans will fall into. Big serves and powerful ground strokes are the order of the day.

    You will see more flat first serves especially if the court is playing fast, and more kick second serves as the court will take the top spin and ensure the returner is having to hit at shoulder or even head height.

    You are less likely to see drop shots on this surface as the ball tends to sit up - so players will only play these when their opponent is well off the back or side of the court.

    And most winning ground strokes should be flattened out to make the ball travel faster.

    You will see lots of inside-out and inside-in forehands as players have time to run round their backhands and the height of the bounce is perfect for attacking from the 3/4 court. Agassi and Roddick are masters of these shots.

    So here are a few tactical drills to try for hard court matches - remember to treat yourself to a massage afterwards!

  • see also
    Playing on grass
    13 Jun 06 |  Skills
    Playing on clay
    24 Apr 06 |  Skills
    Judy Murray's hard-court drills
    25 Aug 06 |  Skills

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