It’s the French Open. Why can’t the French win?

Paris – The most notable feature of the French Open is that this Grand Slam takes place on the rusty red clay of Roland Garros, a beloved feature that is as much as part of the local culture and traditions as the rest that sell second-hand art and books along the Seine.

However, as is often the case in the claims country of Albert Camus and Simone de Beauvoir, the relationship between France and the “Battle of the Land” is a bit more complicated.

This red clay that comes from small brick factory In Oise, north of Paris, she elicits a lot of love.

“My favorite surface,” said Stéphane Levy, a permanent member of the Tennis Club in Paris, is a favorite of some of the country’s best players, including Gilles Simon and Corentin Mutit, with eight of the 18 courts made of the same clay. Like the ones at Roland Garros.

“There’s no sense of wanting to play on it,” Levy said. “Slipping, mud on your body when you sweat.”

But the mud has also become a symbol of deep frustration. A Frenchwoman hasn’t won this country’s singles championship, so it’s treasures, the one that requires more daring but also more than any other, since Marie Pierce in 2000. The Frenchman hasn’t won it in 39 years, since Yannick Noah in 1983. Another French men’s and women’s singles competition on Saturday.


The answer likely has a lot to do with the central discrepancy in the home of the largest red clay theater. Only 11.5 percent of tennis courts in France are made of traditional red clay and most of them are in private clubs. Another 16.5 percent of pitches are made of imitation clay, which is similar to ground pitches but plays harder and faster than softer, traditional clay.

Preserving red clay in cold, wet weather, which is common in France for most of the year, is practically impossible, and building indoor pools for them is expensive. So most French tennis players grow up playing on the hard courts, unlike their counterparts in Spain, where the mild weather and red mud dominate the way Rafael Nadal (who won Sunday in five sets) and many Spaniards before him have dominated Roland Garros.

Competing tennis at the highest level on different surfaces is as natural to tennis fans as fuzzy yellow balls and grunting forehands, but it’s one of the sport’s great quirks. Imagine for a moment if the National Basketball Association played 70 percent of its games on hardwood, 20 percent on rubber and 10 percent on wool rag carpets. This is basically what professional tennis players do, spending the first three months on hardcourt, the next two months on clay, about six weeks on grass, and then most of the remaining year on hardcourt.

While skins have become more and more similar in recent years, each requires a unique set of skills and results in a completely different style of play.

Grass and mud are in the extreme, and turf is the fastest of the three surfaces.

Mud is the slowest. The ball explodes out of the dirt and hangs in the air for a split second longer, allowing players to catch up and lengthen progressions, forcing them to play more tactically, and grinding from the baseline.

Watch an hour of professional tennis on every surface. If you cut all the time between points, playing actual tennis on clay is about 13 minutes, according to multiple studies of energy and effort in the sport. This is much more than on other surfaces, where the returning player on serve is in a more dangerous position and can struggle to get the ball back into play.

Hard courts are about halfway, and require an all-out game.

Among the pros, red clay is loved and hated.

Said Daniil Medvedev of Russia, the second male player in the world, who struggled for years to win a match at the French Open and I made it to the fourth round on Saturday.

Nick Kyrgios of Australia has no use for the surface and skips the clay court season altogether. Iga Sweatk From Poland, the number one woman in the world, she would spend her entire career rolling around if she could.

Beating clay requires a Ph.D. In what coaches and players call “point building,” an acronym for playing tennis like chess, thinking about not just the next shot, but three shots along the line. Learning this to the point where it becomes instinctive can take years, and like most things, the earlier one starts training the brain to think in this way, the better.

“On clay, the fight goes on and on,” said Aurelio de Zazzo, coach of the Tennis Club of Paris. “The longer the effort, the more your brain will be used.”

The club, which is less than a mile from Roland Garros, is trying to carry the red clay torch as best it can. This torch is not cheap. Courts maintenance requires four full-time employees, and a new pug costs more than $2,000 per year per court. Each court must be completely excavated and rebuilt every 15 years, at a cost of more than $30,000 per court.

It was worth it, Levy said.

“This mud is part of France,” he said.

The French Tennis Federation agrees. The organization also wants an individual champion in the French Open. A new plan to promote “terrain” tennis is due to be announced in July. Maybe it can help.