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New clay courts for Australian Open venue

sports Updated: Oct 25, 2010 09:32 IST
clay courts

Eight new clay courts are to be installed at the home of the Australian Open under a player development initiative announced by Tennis Australia on Monday.

Incoming TA president Steve Healy said as part of a one million dollar (983,000 US) plan the clay courts will be put in at Melbourne Park with construction due to start in February.

In recent years TA has attempted to fast-track the development of Australia's clay court players by employing former Spanish top-ten player Felix Mantilla to run a clay court academy in Spain.

"All the experts acknowledge that clay is the best training surface in the world," Healy told a press conference.

"But our harsh climate, short supply of water, high cost and labour intensive nature of maintenance has made it very difficult to develop enough international quality clay courts and sustain them.

"This initiative is designed to rectify that."

Despite the new emphasis on clay court development, the Australian Open, staged each January, will continue to be played on hardcourts.

The plan also includes a maintenance fund to help offset the cost of keeping existing clay courts up to international standards and a fund to rehabilitate courts and return them to international playing standard.

"Our training facilities around the country are among the best in the world in most areas and we even have a clay court academy in Spain headed up by Felix Mantilla," Healy said.

"Throughout Australia we have some of the best coaching talent in tennis, but there is a definite and urgent need to improve our stock of clay courts to give our top kids as much time as they can on this critical surface all year round to develop their game."

Healy formally took over as TA president on Monday from the retiring Geoff Pollard after 21 years.