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Roland-Garros: why do we owe an Englishman the happy invention of clay in France


William Renshaw, who played tennis in the south of France on lawns scorched by the sun, is at the origin of this discovery which revolutionized his sport in 1880.

England, its All England Club at Wimbledon, its traditions, its grassy courts and… its discovery of clay. Often associated with their iconic tennis lawn, the British were also at the origin of the discovery of clay at the end of the 19th century. But it was in France, in Cannes precisely, that the Englishman William Renshaw invented this surface in 1880.

At the time, tennis was played on grass courts. But, at the edge of the Mediterranean, the grass very quickly turned yellow under the effect of the heat and the sunshine. Renshaw, illustrious seven-time winner of the Wimbledon tournament (between 1881 and 1889) and tennis teacher, therefore had an ingenious idea to avoid this inconvenience: “He decided to cover the grass of the courts with a red powder. This powder was obtained from the crushing of defective terracotta pots from the Vallauris workshops.», Explains to Figaro Valerio Emanuele, author of the Dictionary of tennis (Honoré Champion editions

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