Stuff I Didn’t Know: The Clay Courts at the French Open Contain No Clay

Interesting analysis of the makeup and maintenance of those famous “clay” courts at Roland Garros stadium. The few millimeters of broken brick on the top give it the clay look.roland-garros-watering-clay-Bob-Martin-SI

The four layers that makes up the courts at Roland Garros may surprise you a bit. You’ll find a 10-inch layer of stone, a six-inch layer of water-filtering slag (metal waste material) and a four-inch layer of limestone all topped off with three millimeters – a number just too small to count in inches – of broken brick. But actual clay? Not a part of the clay courts at Paris’ Roland Garros.

While limestone and brick make up the core of the playing surface, that doesn’t make caring for the world’s most famous clay courts any less challenging, says Roland Garros head groundsman Bruno Slastan.

Getting the facility’s 20 courts ready for the French Open requires special attention to the top two layers. Slastan says his crews rework the white limestone layer every year and then haul in 88,000 pounds of broken brick – but only during completely dry weather when they have “especially good climatic conditions” – for the three stadium courts and 17 outer courts.

“The thicknesses of materials are respected,” Slastan says. “That is very important. We strive our hardest to achieve perfection.”

During each match, crews rake the surface and sweep clay off of the lines at the end of each set. At the end of every match, the crew waters the entire court to help the brick retain its color and keep from blowing away. And at the end of the day, each court gets watered once again.

via How Roland Garros prepares and maintains the clay for the French Open | Beyond The Baseline.


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