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Friday, 18 May 2018 09:49 AM BST
Clay and grass at the heart of tennis cycle
The tennis calendar has a very distinctive and colourful structure, one that is embraced by players and fans worldwide. READ MORE

With certain exceptions, you can recognise what season it is from what colour court tennis is being played on. Blue, symbolic of hard courts, is for autumn and winter, red, on the clay, is for spring and green, mostly on English lawns, is for summer. That is something embedded into our mental calendars, signalling where we are, how we feel, and what we know lies ahead.

If one of these surfaces is broadcast around the world, you can establish approximately what time of year it is, and what dance the weather outside will be doing.

At least from a European standpoint that much is true, as with any coin there is always a second side, another face to things. And, it is somewhat based on the assumption that the seasons follow their historical patterns, something that seems less fluid and predictable by the year.

What with the Australian summer being the European winter, one could be forgiven for thinking tennis players have an abundance of summers that layfolk simply do not. Primarily, it’s the way the seasons are intertwined with the different phases of the tennis calendar, perhaps regardless of where you are, that makes it so special.

The way the red clay court tells us the punishing fist of winter has ceased to pound our bodies and minds, the way it indicates sunnier days, warmer weather, hours passed outdoors enjoying nature and what that has to offer, and all the sport that entails. Or on the other side of the globe where other patterns inevitably emerge.

In Europe, the arrival of the first clay court events last month symbolised the end of the first American hard court swing (of the season) that saw a couple of surprising winners in the men’s events and different faces in the ladies’. It also brings with it a different feel and bounce and a swing towards those who grew up on the red dirt. It’s their couple of months in which to boost their rankings and push on a little further. This period passes all too quickly, almost in the blink of an eye, just as many would consider spring, its accomplice, to depart in similar fashion.

Roland Garros is now speeding towards the tennis world at a rate of knots. Spring, in all its wondrous glory, is blossoming all around throughout the clay court term, and the thought of the beautiful, orchestral markings upon the Parisian dirt herald a number of annual realisations.

Among these: Rafael Nadal will be preparing for another brutal assault at the Roland Garros title, and that the ladies' singles event is up for grabs in a competitive field filled with intrigue.

Ultimately, red will soon switch to green, and the grass of England, Spain, Germany and more, as the European spring hands the baton over to its colleague summer, a rapid-fire vehicle that has vanished from sight before you know it.

It's all about perspective, how the weather cycles and tennis calendar work differently depending on where one is based. However, the seasons shift seamlessly in the background, the surfaces, and their affiliation with the moments of the year – the days, weeks and months therein – are paramount to the image of tennis and the ride it takes us on each year. It is something that is known – whether to the conscious mind or not – to both the tennis expert and those who just dip in and out of the sport.

Also located in close proximity, there is a warmth and sense of tradition that Roland Garros and Wimbledon possess, unique from one another and yet somehow hand in hand, that also ties the seasons together. It's a familiar cycle and not one we would ever want to see change.

Here's to hoping we all witness many more seasons and years of the captivating loop. The ‘Seasonal Tennis Syndrome’ is a part of our lives, and there's no getting over such a condition, as we prepare for the final stages on the red dirt and the switch to the glorious green lawns.

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