California’s dreamin’ clay courts and Brad Gilbert is on it.
A little background: The Golden State is a tennis nation unto itself, a 3.5 NTRP here is arguably a 4.0 or 4.5 back east. Problem is, California is hurting for clay courts and that is exactly where rising juniors need to be training.
Har-Tru plans to make clay court training more accessible to California's junior players through an investment of $500,000 toward a clay court training facility in the Bay area. Har-Tru will also work closely with USTA NorCal Player Development to identify opportunities for California youth to train on clay courts.
It's a step in the right direction if the U.S. hopes to produce world tennis champions. The vast majority of top ATP and WTA players grew up on clay courts.
“I’m excited to be a partner to Har-Tru as the company announces its ongoing commitment to developing champions here in Northern California," said Gilbert at the announcement (made on hard courts, perhaps reinforcing the need for clay here). "Together we will continue to inspire junior players to train on clay in order to develop better habits and techniques, and become more well-rounded players."
"Playing on clay requires practice, patience and strategy, yet access to clay courts can be difficult," Gilbert continued. "The more access to clay we can provide to American junior players, the more likely we are to develop the caliber of player needed to compete with and win against the world’s top players.”
According to Gilbert there has been a push in recent years to incorporate clay court play at training centers and challenger events but public facilities remain predominantly hard.
Are U.S. Players starting to benefit from adding clay to their training regime? "The girls are doing better than the guys," says Gilbert.