Also, look a little bit deeper and the clay may give Gauff as many benefits because it takes away. At 5-foot-9, Gauff is around the typical height amongst top players today, but she has long legs. That may also help her cover lots of ground with just just a few quick steps, but it may make balls that stay low on grass and hardcourts a tad harder for her.
If there was a standard thread in Gauff’s first three matches, it’s how well positioned she has so often been. The balls hit the clay and bounce right into her strike zone, giving her a series of belt-high fastballs that she will tee off on, while making the most of the additional split second the clay gives her to set her feet or slide into position.
At all times aggressive and trying to find forehands, she is going to inevitably make her share of errors, but to date she has hit more winners than unforced errors, which is at all times an excellent sign for any player. She has also rarely appeared off balance.
“I actually enjoy sliding,” she said. “I feel it helps me get well faster after I get to the ball. Then also, I mean, I play pretty heavy on my forehand, so I feel that clay bounces the ball up even higher.”
For her part, Anisimova, 20, also spent most of her childhood in Florida, but she said she grew more comfortable on the clay largely by playing lots of junior tournaments in Latin American countries, where red clay can be much more common than it’s in the USA.
Anisimova is a dangerous returner, in a position to punish the slower serves, especially along with her near-lethal backhand. She also knows her footwork and movement would be the weakest a part of her still-developing game, and the longer points on clay inevitably require her to cover more ground. The clay makes her weakness a little bit less weak.
“It gives me more time,” she said of the clay after her win over Muchova. “Hard courts sometimes is usually a bit too quick.”