Crushed earth. Terracotta hues. Blue skies. Sliding effortlessly across the clay to slice an angled shot.
These are just some of the images evoked when the tennis season moves onto European clay courts, which it did recently and where it will remain until the conclusion of the French Open in Paris.
Watching these tournaments on this textured surface in a far-off land can be a somewhat romantic yet wistful experience for Australians, huddled around their televisions or computers as the weather grows steadily chillier.
Yet that very surface now exists in our own backyard. And what’s more, it’s available to the public.
Late last year, eight clay courts were installed at Melbourne Park’s new National Tennis Centre, using clay imported from Italy. This was done to replicate the style of courts present at all levels of the sport in Europe, currently the world’s tennis hotbed.
Through Tennis World at Melbourne Park, you can hire these courts and play on the same surface as the best players in the game.
Not long ago, the idea of playing on European clay was unfathomable in Australia, a nation most celebrated for its plethora of grasscourts. Yet with drought claiming many of these courts, and the recognition at elite level that juniors should ideally develop their games on clay, clay courts have increasingly begun popping up all over the country.
And nowhere are they of a higher standard than at Melbourne Park.
Several types of clay were trialled at Tennis Australia’s Clay Court Research Centre at Macquarie University in Sydney, with Italian clay eventually selected – after almost three years of research – as the surface best suited to Melbourne’s climactic conditions.
The eight courts are primarily designed as a training facility to prepare Australia’s emerging and established talent for international competition.
And by being made available for hire, you can be sure you’re playing on one of the world’s finest claycourt surfaces.
Not only can you play on the same courts as the pros at the home of the Australian Open, you can continue on the same surface as your favourite players after they leave Australia and begin toiling on the dirt ahead of Roland Garros.
For more information on how to book courts, fees, and clay court hire guidelines, visit the Tennis World website.