Full Spring Ahead!
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Looking for a few pointers for opening your clay courts? Preparations done now will determine playing conditions for the rest of the year.
First, decide who will open the court for the spring. If a tennis court contractor will open the court, roll the court as firm as possible before the contractor arrives, you'll be glad you did.
Hand rolling a court at the beginning of the season
As soon as you can walk on the surface without leaving footprints, remove any leaves or debris that may have blown onto the court over the winter. Then follow up with a smooth brushing of the clay in multiple directions to produce that unique "velvetized" texture that only a true clay court aficionado can appreciate!
Next, slowly roll the surface in a back-and-forth motion with minimal twisting and turning of the roller. You do not want to push or twist the clay layer. The idea is to firm up the surface by incrementally adding weight to the roller until the surface is smooth, firm, and playable.
Once the surface is playable, lightly scrape and remove the so-called "dead" material from the surface.
The "dead" material are the larger particles of the Har-Tru mix that have fallen out of aggregation through weatherization. These larger particles can be seen laying on top of the surface, have no benefit, and cannot be rolled back into the Har-Tru matrix. These particles must be removed before the court is patched and top dressed; otherwise, the new topdressing may not bind to the court. A few wheelbarrows of this material is what you would expect to remove from the court.
Once the "dead" material has been removed, you are ready to patch the low areas on the high play areas of the court, like around the baselines. Locate the low areas using a mason's string line. Stretch the string line over the low areas, scribe the low areas, clean the loose material out of the areas, lightly scarify, add new surfacing material, screed off with a straight edge, lightly brush, water, and roll firm.
Now you have a level court that is ready for topdressing. Top dress the court in one-ton increments, followed by brushing, watering, and rolling.
Brushing the court
You now have a freshly reconditioned court ready for line tapes.
Is there a secret to knowing if your clay court surface is firm enough to install the line tapes?
If you can stick a line tape nail in the clay surface more than 1" deep with your bare hand, your surface is not yet rolled firm enough to install the tapes. Continue rolling until you pass the "nail" test.
Install the line tapes according to the instructions in the box, install your net, and have a great season!
Looking for even more court opening tips? Check out how our friend Martha Stewart opens her courts for the season!