© Ella Ling

Miami 2012 - Nadal close-up 2

How to slide on clay


Slide into the ball
Moving well on clay courts is very different to hard courts and if you can’t slide well, you’re going to find yourself out of position more often than not, ss Andy Murray explains: “On hard courts, when you’re on the run you hit the ball when you’re in the air and then you land after you hit the shot and then turn back. On clay if you do that, you land and you keep sliding and that takes a good half-second, which makes a big difference. You have to slide into the shots when they’re wide to cut off a lot of the court.”

Slide on your outside leg, if possible
This sounds awkward even written down, let alone in practice but it makes a massive difference. For a right-hander, when pulled wide on the forehand, if you can slide on your right leg, you can maintain an open stance. On the backhand side, it should be your left. Problem is, it’s almost impossible for one-handed players and still difficult even for those who use two hands on the backhand. “I slide every time with my right leg,” Murray admitted.

“I think there have only been a couple of guys who have ever really done it. Nadal slides better out to his forehand, as most guys will, but when he hits a wide backhand which he hits open-stance, he’ll slide a little bit. Someone like Guillermo Coria, he could slide off both legs and it just makes a big difference. Very few guys can do it.”

Move like a dancer
On any court, being heavy and leaden-footed is not going to get you far but on a clay court any lack of mobility is going to be exaggerated. You need to let your movement flow and stay light on your feet, if possible. Changing direction will never be easy but if you have that dancer-like movement, you will have a little more chance to cover the court and stay in the rallies.