The first feeling when the clay season starts is the idea of patience, especially for those who were born on this surface. We feel we arrived at our home, and all the memories of child come to you. From that point on, you feel that your emotions and possibilities will increase respect your rivals, especially today when in the circuit the 70 percent of the tournaments are played on fast courts.
The gunboats are not so lethal, straight hits do not hurt us so much. Players who retrieve you on the line give you less afraid, they press you less. And you feel that with a good percentage of services, with a very good move of legs, with a very good top spin forehand, with more curve, not as straight as on other surfaces, and especially with good physique, and above all with very good head, you realise that you will win many matches by consistency and dedication. We could say that is by knowing suffer more than your rivals.
On clay, not only works to attack, you must know how to defend, you must know how to slide, and you must understand that patience will be the greatest virtue in these two months. You will win easily a very few matches and although the score may be 6-2 and 6-2, that means as minimum one hour and 40 minutes of game. You have much more time to retrieve, and you can put two or three meters away from the baseline and wait for the ball. You need to work the point five, six, seven and at least up to eight hits. And that, with our mentality and tennis philosophy makes us, the specialists, very fearsome, above all to the Spanish.
From that point on, I think Novak Djokovic, today is the man to beat. Even Rafa still has chances to win in each tournament on clay he plays. And at Roland Garros to five sets, there are very few people who can defeat him.
Although the Serbian does not play the prototype of the Spanish game, he is the best player who has been able to adapt to all kinds of surfaces, especially on clay where he moves very well his right hand, he defends quite good with his backhand and he is also able to anticipate. Also he uses a very important stroke for me on clay, which is the drop shot to get the rivals out of the baseline, and out of their comfort zone. He varies in general very well his strokes.
Your feeling on clay is a continuous suffering even if you win, because the matches are very hard until the end. In many of the tournaments can get very hot, and the black or brown socks, and the t-shirts stained on your back with the dust that is generated during the service when you lift your feet, are the symbols of the authentic warrior of the clay courts.
I remember winning many matches on clay, and feel chills of suffering and physical restlessness, and think I could not more. And observe your rival and see he is worse than you. And hold on those extra minutes, and from that moment on everything becomes easier. There is a moment you think you can’t, but if you get through it, if you break that important psychological barrier, you can win incredible matches. All those physical hours and pre-season training becoming increasingly important, if possible, at this time.
You win the matches on the court, but the preparation in the dressing room is essential to win. When your coach look at you in the eyes before you go into the match it is important he knows to transmit you the hardness of what you’ll find, but especially you have to be ready for what you’re going to face, a hard season which has just started.