The court surface the player is to begin the season on is significant to the type of training done by a player which ultimately determines if their body is physically ready to meet the demands of that court.
If the first tournaments are on hard courts the player needs to train differently than if the first match was on clay where the player needs to slide and be able to cope with changes in surface speed within a match itself depending on if the clay is damp or dry.
On hard courts players need to be able to accelerate and decelerate while rapidly changing direction, which requires high elastic and reactive strength.
Girard et al (2007) showed different loading patterns in the foot depending on surface type. They showed more loading though the front portion of the foot when on hard or fast courts, requiring more aggressive style of play. This has implications for possible nerve entrapment, ligamentous strain and muscle injuries in the ankle and foot, with a higher degree of muscular fatigue being seen on fast courts.
The higher friction coefficient on hard courts tends to predispose the player to more ankle sprains, knee ligament injury, Achilles tendonitis and various toe complaints due to higher loading, faster play style, higher friction and demand for fast changes in direction.
If you think about a player like Lleyton Hewitt who has had to have part of his big toe bone removed due to degeneration of the toe you start to get an idea about the amount of loading and strain that these courts can inflict on a body.
The aggressive faster point on a hard court mean that each point players are sprinting around the court, sometimes up to 80m per point. By the end of a match players have sprinted multiple kilometers.
On clay courts, there is less jarring and stop/start play style due to the ability of the players to slide to decelerate and the slower game style allowing for more time to change direction which can lead to a higher rate of fatigue or muscular strain injuries on clay courts.
Groin injuries and calf injuries can sometimes be seen more on clay courts.
Sliding on a hard court can often be seen in elite level tennis as a means of deceleration but, if used excessively, can cause injury in the player due to the high friction component of play and the increased likelihood for jarring injuries or ankle sprains
Clay court play requires significant lower limb concentric and eccentric strength in order to play longer points as well as strong core and stabilising muscles to maintain balance while sliding over longer periods of play.
An issue with clay courts can be the quality of the court as we saw this year at Monte Carlo when Julien Benneteau and Juan Monaco went down in the same ditch on the center court – Julien breaking his elbow and spraining his ankle.
Grass court tournaments, traditionally seen mid year, require the player to repetitively manage dynamic movements through a minimal range with high number of isometric contractions.
As the ball tends to bounce lower in grass court tournaments the use and efficiency of the stretch shorten cycle (SSC) is reduced, thus demonstrating the need for different off-season training depending on the surface of the first tournaments of the year.
The SSC allows a player to, for e.g., wind up on a shot and use that wind up to generate their power or to perform a quick squat to give them explosive power to leap up to reach a shot. As the players have to sit lower on a grass court this reduces their time and ability to use the SSC to generate power.
Due to the lower frictional resistance seen on clay courts when compared to hard courts, a lower rate of injuries is reported, particularly knee injuries, seen over the course of a career. The shock absorption component is also a significant factor in overuse injuries.