PARIS (AP) — To tennis fans, Paris in the springtime is all about the French Open and the red clay courts — or “terre battue” — of Roland Garros.

The 15-day tournament was supposed to be happening now, but the start was postponed from May until September because of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are plenty of ways in which the French Open is the same as the other Grand Slam tournaments, from the cast of characters to the regular intrusion of rain. And there are just as many aspects of Roland Garros that make it distinct, from the aroma of crepes wafting through the grounds to the pigeons that perch atop the stadiums.

What really stands out in a fundamental way is the surface, so different from the grass of Wimbledon or the hard courts of the U.S. Open and Australian Open.

The clay in Paris makes for slower, longer points on a tennis court, which can be frustrating to some players and beneficial to others.

It also leaves its rust-colored mark, quite literally, on players’ shoes and socks and shirts and shorts and, sometimes, skin.

The footwork can be tricky, occasionally leading to tumbles.

And then there are those moments when the competitors want to drop to the ground and enjoy the clay, such as Rafael Nadal’s champion’s pose after earning one of his record 12 titles in France.


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