Meghan King grew up wanting to be just like Rafael Nadal, “The King of Clay.”
King, who grew up in Overland Park and attends Kansas State, first experienced playing on a clay court in Florida when she was 10 years old. She instantly fell in love with the surface.
“I remember slipping and sliding all over the place,” King said. “There’s something special about playing on clay. You feel like a totally different athlete, you can try so many more techniques on clay. And, it’s so much easier on my body”
As King’s career progressed, she built up joint pains and ankle issues playing on harder surfaces. Now, she’s able to relieve those pains right in her own backyard.
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Overland Park Racquet Club recently installed four clay tennis courts and officially opened them to the public in April. The club’s business has flourished since and received an uptick during the French Open.
“The courts are full a lot of the time. It’s been more and more difficult to get a court now,” Overland Park Racquet Club co-owner Elliott McDermed said. “That momentum is really building with the interest and excitement of playing on this surface.”
Clay courts present many benefits. In addition to the soft surface, players are able to experiment with different techniques and tricks, such as sliding during play to make hits they wouldn’t be able to make on a regular grass surface.
“Developmentally, it’s great for kids,” McDermed said. “But for older, avid tennis players, it’s really a lot better on the body. It’s a lot easier on the joints. It creates longer points that become a lot more interesting.”
As smooth as the clay court surface is, fulfilling the process wasn’t as easy for Overland Park Racquet Club. The clay court renovation was projected to cost $500,000, but ended up costing McDermed and co-owner Eric Rand more than $900,000. McDermed thinks their investment will pay off in the long run.
“Anytime you do something that hasn’t been done before, it’s a learning process all the way along,” McDermed said. “We made some mistakes and had to find some solutions to the way we located them or the way we designed them.”
Overland Park Racquet Club charges members $35 an hour to use a clay court. An individual club membership costs $89 per year.