Clay : The Surface Nemesis of the Williams Sisters?

The imoportance of the surface is greater than most people think

One of the most misunderstood aspects of tennis for many people, who don’t have an active interest in the sport, is the importance of the surface. To many, a good Tennis player is a good tennis player, be that on carpet, grass, hard court or clay.

Certainly as we enter the Clay season, the importance of the surface takes on an added dimension as clay, it seems, seems to be the great leveller in women’s tennis at the moment and if you are considering dabbling in tennis betting, it must be taken into consideration.

On the hard courts and grass, the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, have exercised a dominance over the women’s game in recent years that perhaps only Federer and Nadal in the men’s game can claim to emulate.

The sheer force of will, power and determination of both Williams sisters, particularly in the grand slam events of the Australian Open, US Open and Wimbledon make them almost certain favourites for each event.

However, when we enter the clay court season, that changes slightly.

Of the two Williams sisters, Serena is arguably the better suited to bucking the trend and triumphing on clay. The shorter of the two sisters is also the most powerful and the best suited to the powerful, yet patient groundstroke game required to triumph on clay.

However the American has shown frailties at times and injury has kept her our since she lifted the Australian open title  in January. It is perhaps asking too much for her to make a winning return to Roland Garros after such a spell. If she can win, it would be her second French open, after her success in 2002.

Her sister Venus, who lost that 2002 final to her sister, has never enjoyed great success on clay. Her game is based purely on using her remarkable physical attributes, particularly her 6ft 1” frame, to generate a level of power that other women find hard to match on the quicker surfaces.

Clay however, reduces the speed of the ball markedly making it easier for other players to expose Venus’ weaker part of her game and while the American will be hoping for success on the clay this season, it would require a somewhat extraordinary turn of events for her to triumph on a surface that is not her favourite.

Henin and Clijsters like the clay…

Another problem facing the Williams sisters is that despite their dislike of clay, some of their greatest opponents enjoy playing on the surface. Justine Henin will be hoping she can return to her best form at the French Open in particular, a place where she has enjoyed success in the past.

Since her return to the WTA tour Henin has failed to win a WTA event and although being ranked 23 is a decent achievement, it is not on a par with the level she can play at. Perhaps at Roland Garros she can put this right.

She’ll face tough competition from compatriot Kim Clijsters, who made a similar return to Tennis in spectacular fashion last September in lifting the US Open title in only her third tournament since her return.

Clijsters will be hoping the seasons second major offers her another chance at lifting a slam title. If I was given one of the myriad of free bets offers around, I’d be backing Clijsters for a strong run this year.

But for the Williams sisters, fighting injury and a surface that lessens the strongest aspects of their game, playing on clay may once again prove to be a greater obstacle to overcome, than any of their opponents.