Forming Their Games On Clay But Succeeding On Hard
They spent their formative years on clay, sliding and grinding away on red dirt. But you could hardly call #NextGenATP American Jared Donaldson and Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta exclusively “dirtballers”.
The two, despite their vast experience on clay, have found ways to excel on clay courts and hard courts, including Monday at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Donaldson, 20, earned his third ATP World Tour Masters 1000 win of the past two weeks, upsetting 12th seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 7-6(5), 6-3 to advance to the second round. Carreno Busta, playing in his second match since Roland Garros (due to an abdomen injury), also needed only two sets, moving on with a 6-3, 6-3 win against Italian Paolo Lorenzi.
“I think the good thing is I do have experience on both surfaces,” Donaldson said.
He grew up on hard courts, like Carreno Busta. The American spent his childhood playing indoors in Rhode Island in the U.S. But when he was 14, his parents and coaches wanted to expand his game, so he moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he trained on red clay for nearly two years.
Donaldson worked with the country's up-and-coming stars, including training with current-World No. 33 Diego Schwartzman. The experience matured Donaldson, and it also diversified his game. He already knew how to play on quick courts but, in Argentina, he learned how to fight on slower surfaces as well.
“I have a good base for clay-court play, and I think the big difference is clay gives me a little more time on my groundstrokes, which I think is good, but also I have the ability to take the ball early, which I think is also underrated on clay courts. Players who can do both – take the ball early and are able to play back – those are the toughest players to beat,” Donaldson said.
But his biggest successes have come on hard courts. Donaldson reached the fourth round in Miami last year and the third round in Montreal last week.
“On hard court... I think it's about attacking, and taking the ball early and serving really well. So my strategy is always to be aggressive and be attacking, and it's more highlighted on the hard courts,” Donaldson said.
Carreno Busta also played almost exclusively on hard courts until his teenage years. He was 15 when he began taking tennis more seriously and moved from Asturias to Barcelona. “I started to play more on clay, like Spanish style,” Carreno Busta exclusively told ATPWorldTour.com.
He spent the next few years learning how to construct points on clay, and then joined the professional ranks, where he has played most of his matches on hard courts. He has excelled on both surfaces.
“The Spanish style is more playing on the clay courts because we fight, we fight a lot,” Carreno Busta said.
But his other two titles, including his maiden crown last year at the Winston-Salem Open, came on hard courts.
“Now I'm maybe more comfortable playing on clay courts but my first ATP title was on hard courts, so I also am comfortable playing there,” Carreno Busta said. “I have a good serve, I return good. And then when I play on top, I have a good forehand and a good backhand so maybe I have a good game for both surfaces.”
His focus now is solely on hard courts – the surface of the Masters 1000 in Cincinnati. “We have chances now in this tournament to do something important,” Carreno Busta said.