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Saturday, June 2, 2012
Red courts need care

By Joanne C. Gerstner

roland garros
The clay courts at Roland Garros require TLC to stay in pristine condition.


Clay courts are messy, dusty, and can be quite fussy.

A couple of things that can happen to a hard court, leaves piling up or bird droppings, can be washed away with a hose.

The red clay courts of Roland Garros, the very thing that makes the French Open so special, require a lot of TLC to stay in good repair. The courts are resurfaced, between every set, by the grounds crew. It's an old school approach, as they drag what looks like a piece of an old net, nailed to a board, that's connected to a rope, to even out the drag marks and small divots in the terre batue.

The white lines, which are permanently affixed into the the dirt, are brushed off with a broom. The final step is a light watering down of the dirt, with a fine spray delivered through a small firehose. The water is absorbed quickly, thanks to the thirsty dirt, and play soon resumes. It's a deliberate process, but one that leaves the clay court in pristine condition, much like a Zamboni does for an ice rink.