Before Roger Federer briefly returned to clay-court tennis in 2019 — a decade removed from his French Open title — his confidence was low, he explained, “because I don’t even remember how to slide anymore.”

Before Maria Sharapova figured out the necessary footwork to claim two trophies in Paris, she joked the rust-colored surface made her look like “a cow on ice.”

And anyone who’s ever seen Rafael Nadal play on clay knows his ability to glide along the ground to reach shots others can’t is as big a reason for his record 12 championships at Roland Garros as his bullwhip of a forehand or his unflagging spirit.

One of the common sights at the French Open, postponed from now until September because of the coronavirus

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