I hate clay; I really really hate it. It gets my clothes dirty. I can’t get a good grip on the ground to accelerate to the ball. I slip everywhere … and I can completely forget about wearing my beautiful white sneakers. Everyone has their preferred surfaces. Mine is a hard court, but when playing in USTA, you have to be ready to play on anything. No one knows where the future of tennis might go in terms of surface. We do know where racquet technology is going. We are even better informed on the biomechanics of the game as well, but surface hasn’t really been explored yet. Here are a few options.
Ice seems like a natural progression of the sport. We have clay, which is already slippery, so why not take that a step further. We’d need special shoes, aka skates, but that does not differ too much from the current necessities of clay. To play competitively on clay, you can purchase special sneakers that help you grip the ground. There is precedence with the sport of hockey. What is hockey if not soccer on ice and with a hand held instrument to help control the ball (read puck). Tennis on ice doesn’t seem to far-fetched now, especially considering that hockey rinks would just be repurposed to serve another function. Although I have never played tennis on ice, I’m thinking the ball will probably bounce lower and skid even more than clay. Come to think of it, isn’t ice is just Clay 2.0?
Hardwood floors doesn’t seem like such a bad option either. You can find hardwood floors in several places: A gym, an apartment, a business. Playing on wood makes sense and increases the number of places tennis can be enjoyed. Anyone who wants a tennis court would only have to go to Home Depot and maybe watch a few YouTube videos on how to lie down and connect the pieces. Upkeep would be minimal, and replacing potentially worn or broken pieces would literally be a snap. Adjustments might need to be made to the ball in order to prevent the game from being as fast as it probably would, but that seems like an easy fix.
Steel makes even more sense than the previous two options. It’s cheaper and exceptionally durable. Tennis courts could be built to last for 100 years. Play on the surface would be similar to a hard court, although it might be a bit tougher on the body. Grip on steel would also not be an issue the way it is on clay. The fun part about steel is that they could also be customized to play differently. Consider this, large sheets of steel making up a tennis court. On one side it plays fast, but flip the sheet over and it plays slow. Steel sheets could be spray painted easily and quickly for special events or just for a change of season.
We should consider doing away with the dreadful surface of clay. With so many other potential solutions to where we can take our game, there is no reason to dwell on the past. All of these options would spread tennis and provide youngsters with greater opportunities.
Miguel Cervantes III
Miguel Cervantes III teaches at Carefree Racquet Club and privately outdoors. Miguel specializes in teaching beginners, training juniors and coaching doubles. He may be reached by e-mail at UnderstandingTennis@gmail.com.