In a few days, the culmination of clay court matches will happen in Paris at Stade Roland Garros. After weeks of frenzied and demanding plays in Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome, professional tennis players head to Paris to participate in the second grand slam of the season, the French Open. Known for its demanding surface, players are known to get down and dirty when playing at the surface, often relishing the falls and slides that come with running after a point or saving an ace. Aside from its standing as one of the four grand slams, massive ranking points and winnings said to exceed €25,000,000, the clay courts of Paris also offers a different playing experience that both excites and frustrates the professionals and amateurs alike. 

Clay courts are made from different types of clay 

Clay courts used for competitions are available in at least 6 types, including red, green, American red, yellow, grey and blue. Natural stones are crushed and processed to varying levels, depending on the tournaments and locations. For Roland Garros, the common perception is that the courts are made from red clay. While this is partly true, it should be kept in mind that the clay courts at Roland Garros are partially sprinkled and coated with red brick dust and white limestone. Beneath the ‘red clay’ surface are layers of volcanic rocks, sand and concrete. And since the red appearance of the court is primarily due to the sprinkled red dust, maintenance teams will regularly sprinkle red dust to keep the striking color that defines the clay court of Stade Roland Garros. 

Clay design helps promote longer, competitive play 

More than the aesthetic value, clay courts are better known for changing the way points are played and completed. If in Wimbledon’s well-manicured lawns the tennis balls bounce faster requiring quick reflexes the French’s clay courts slow down the ball after it hits the court. The extra time gives players an extra time (and a moment to strategize) on how to return the serve or point. Thanks to these characteristics, players are longer, and it’s often difficult to score aces when playing in Roland Garros. And since matches can extend up to five sets, with an opportunity to get into a tie-breaker in the fifth, many professional tennis players and observers remark that the French Open is the most demanding tennis tournament right now. 

The iconic and aesthetically-pleasing design of the tennis courts, demanding play and of course a chic city all contributes to the allure and popularity of the French Open. And in a few days, the tennis world is set to crown its champions, the masters of a tough clay court surface.