Tennis court surface

Tennis Court Surface

If you are thinking about playing tennis or installing a court, you might be confused about the different tennis court surfaces. And how they affect play, and what’s best for you?

The International Tennis Federation has specified ten tennis court surfaces.

👉 But, there are only four main tennis court surfaces, which are

  • Hard court
  • Grass court
  • Clay court
  • Carpet court.

All of them are equally popular for their unique features.

If you’re watching one of the grand slam tournaments, like the U.S Open, Australian Open, Wimbledon, and French Open, you’ll see the different surfaces in action.

U.S. Open and Australian Open feature hard courts.

Wimbledon features grass and French open features clay.

Different tennis players prefer different surfaces and perform better on some than others.

For example, Rafael Nadal made his mark by playing on the clay court, while Roger Federer is the tennis champ on the grass court.

We will go over each tennis court surface here, one by one, to help you find the perfect one for you.

Table of Contents

Types of Tennis Court Surface

#1: Clay Court

Clay court falls in the category of a slow pace court, in which the ball bounces high. Since the ball loses its energy while hitting the ground, it fades the effectiveness of a strong serve and has less spin. This makes the rallies go longer. 🧠 REMEMBER: It favors defensive baseline players who are patient and persistent. This tennis court surface made players like Rafael Nadal, winners of the French Open. Clay courts have two different types: the red clay court and the green clay court. A red clay court surface is made up of crushed bricks, shale, or stones A green clay court surface, also called Har-Tru or Rubico, is made from metabasalts. Additionally, green clay courts are hard and fast compared to red clay courts. Maintenance of this tennis court surface includes irrigation, sweeping, rolling, and flattening of the surface after games, as the game can cause wear and tears to the clay surface.
Pros Cons
It allows players to slide while playing. It doesn’t allow playing in the cold weather.
It absorbs shocks and reduces the risk of injuries. It requires proper maintenance and care.
It is an easy tennis surface for beginners. Maintenance can be an expensive and time-consuming process.
It is easy and inexpensive to install. It causes stains on players’ shoes and clothes.
It dries quickly after rain, allowing players to resume the game. Unmaintained clay courts can cause bad bounces ruining the game experience.
Only two colors are available in clay courts: green and red.

#2: Hard Court

Hard tennis court is made with rigid material, like asphalt or concrete, with the acrylic surface layer. Below is the detailed video that explains the difference between clay and hard court.

Acrylic top over hard base provides a little cushioning, making it smoother and gives it a fast surface.

Hard courts come under the fast and medium-fast category described by ITF, providing more rapid play than clay and slower than grass.

Speed can differ according to the exact material used in the making of the court and the quantity of sand added to the paint.

Hard courts offer a good balance between offensive and defensive play.

The hard court can be good for beginners, as it provides consistent bounces and spin.

👉 Two of the Grand Slam tournaments are played on hard courts, the US Open and the Australian Open.

Maintenance is easier, as you only need to brush and pressure wash to prevent the growth of algae and moss.

Various colors are available.Injury risks are higher as it is a hard surface.
It requires low maintenance, thus saving time and money.Some maintenance is required over time.
It quickly dries off after the rain. 
It allows the players to decide the pace of the game. 
It can be used as a basketball court as well. So, investment in hard court can be worthwhile. 
It is cleaner to play on hard courts as compared to clay. 
It can be installed indoors. 

#3: Grass Court

Undoubtedly, the grass court is the fastest tennis court surface. 👌

With grass courts being so fast, players must be quick, vigilant, and good offensively and defensively to win points.

👉 Grass courts are hardly used because of demand in upkeep. But they are still popular because one of the Grand Slam tournaments, Wimbledon, is played on a real grass court.

Materials in Grass Tennis Court

There are two kinds of grass-court materials, natural grass and synthetic turf.

Synthetic turf is artificial grass filled with sand.

Additionally, an artificial grass tennis court surface provides some advantages over a natural grass court. For instance, it doesn’t require irrigation or mowing and can dry faster after rain.

However, this provides a solid surface for ball rebound.

Synthetic turf requires sweeping and mold inspection for maintenance.

Instead, maintenance of natural grass court includes watering, mowing of grass, fertilizing, topdressing, spray, etc., which takes time and money.

Various colors are available.Injury risks are higher as it is a hard surface.
It requires low maintenance, thus saving time and money.Some maintenance is required over time.
It quickly dries off after the rain. 
It allows the players to decide the pace of the game. 
It can be used as a basketball court as well. So, investment in hard court can be worthwhile. 
It is cleaner to play on hard courts as compared to clay. 
It can be installed indoors. 

#4: Carpet Court

Surprisingly, carpet courts are fast, temporary, and low bounce tennis court surfaces that are not popular for professional tennis events.

Carpet refers to any removable temporary court covering. According to ITF, carpet surface is textile or polymeric material”, the textile surface is laid on a concrete base.

Furthermore, there are two types of carpet courts: indoor and outdoor. Their speed and bounce abilities are different.

Indoor carpet courts are made with rubber-bound surfacing. However, the outdoor carpet court is turf infilled with sand, which can be laid and then removed after the game.

Additionally, indoor carpet courts allow a great spectator experience and an energetic tennis match regardless of weather conditions.

Outdoor carpet courts provide a sound fast playing experience with easier installation and less maintenance hassle.

Since the speed of the ball on the carpet court is fast and bounce is low, it doesn’t allow players much time to react before hitting the ball.

This increases your chances of making mistakes during the match. This type of court comes under the fast pace category.

Easy to change when damaged.Low bounces can cause knee pain in players.
Easy to install.Falling on carpet court can cause injuries.
Less maintenance is needed (negligible compared to other courts).Cleaning of carpet is required.
It can be used at low temperatures.The carpet may have a shorter lifespan.
Indoor carpet court game does get affected by rain, while outdoor carpet court dries quickly after rain, allowing players to resume playing after the rain.Carpet is susceptible to host allergens.

Slow vs Fast courts

Which is best – it’s a hot topic among players and spectators.

Slow Courts

On slow courts, the ball bounces higher with less speed.

It allows you to have enough time to think of your next move. It also increases rallies. So, the match takes longer to conclude.

But you might slide more and face more injuries on slow courts.

DISCLAIMER: Players can feel more tired after playing on slow courts.

Slow courts aren’t great for players with powerful serves and great volley players. It supports the baseliner who has patience and consistency.

Fast courts

On fast courts, the ball bounces faster but lower.

The rapid speed of the ball gives you little time to react, so your strokes should be short and aggressive.

It requires a punchy serve for the player to dominate the game. You have to be near the net and vigilant to keep control of the game in a fast court.

How to Choose the Best Tennis Court Surface?

Suppose you are thinking about getting your own tennis court surface. You need to consider maintenance and repair.

#1: Take Advice while Planning

Get advice from contractors, players, and local tennis clubs. Make sure you ask the right questions when choosing between the various tennis court surface options.

You need to consider

Court position – which way should it face (think about sunrises and sunsets? Will the sun be in your eyes?

Are there local regulations on installing a court?

Think about the surface you want and the required maintenance.

#2: Keep your Budget in Mind

Factors that affect the price include labor, surface type, level of lighting, fence coverage, and extra facilities that you need.

#3: Choosing Site Location and Orientation

Site location is one of the main factors that you should focus on before designing your tennis court.

International Tennis Federation has classified tennis court dimensions in three categories: international (preferred), international (minimum), and recreational (minimum).

The tennis court surface dimensions for recreational purposes are recommended to be 34.75 m by 17.07 m.

The site’s location must be chosen according to the intensity and orientation of the sun.

#4: Choosing Construction Method

How your tennis court ends up depends on how you construct it.

It requires solid civil engineering knowledge to build a perfect court.

Some of the significant factors are soil suppression, drainage system, foundations and lighting.

Sports & Play Industry Association Limited (SAPIA) has compiled all the instructions regarding court building covering all the aspects of court construction, including sub-drainage system, sump pit, surrounding edging, base layer, subsurface layers, lines, and maintenance.

👉  Here is a detailed go through for the construction of your tennis court.

#5: Choosing Surface

We have discussed that tennis court surface material affects the bounce, spin, play style, and injury risks as well. It is your call now to ask yourself what matters to you the most.

If you are looking for a safe playground, go for clay, but if you want a stable ball response to get a sound experience, go for the hard court, and if you want to showcase your tennis court to your friends and make it look beautiful, grass court will be the best option. And if you are looking for an indoor tennis court, you should consider a carpet court. 

PRO TIP: It would be wise to consider the weather conditions in your area before deciding on a tennis court surface best for you.

Make sure that you factor in how much time and money you can devote to maintaining your tennis court regularly before choosing the surface.

#6: Selecting Court Lighting

A tennis court can be lit using various lighting options, including LED, metal halide, halogen mercury, and HPS (high-pressure sodium) lamps.

The four significant aspects of lighting your tennis court include price, electricity use, luminance and durability. Cutting short-term costs should not be the primary concern in choosing the lighting you use.

Instead, choose the one that can reduce your electricity usage with high-quality light, so that you can play all times. LED lights are the best in terms of energy efficiency.

👉 Good lighting contains the following luminance aspects:

  1. Excellent luminance intensity (gain) to make the court bright enough for players to play easily.
  2. It should spread light uniformly through the court
  3. It should throw light in a way that can be confined in the court (so it doesn’t cause problems for spectators or neighbors).

#7: Finding and Selecting a Contractor

  1. Ensure the contractor you choose is associated with recognized institutions that provide accreditation for the work.
  2. Choose the contractor who has good enough experience building your desired tennis court surface. For example, a company may have ten years of experience building tennis courts, but he may not have worked on clay courts.
  3. Choose the contractor who is well aware of the legalities regarding tennis courts, their surfaces, area, and lightening system in your area.
  4. Last but not least, have a detailed conversation with the contractor before assigning them the work. Make sure you can get clear on everything that they are offering. Don’t just blindly trust them. Get details in writing before giving them the contract.

Do proper research before you start the process. A well-built tennis court should last for many years to come.

It can save you from a lot of disappointment, taking time to plan your court probably at the start.

Final Words

If you’re going to get a court, try all the surfaces available so you can find one that suits you.

Clay tennis courts are popular in Europe, Central & South America, and the eastern/southeastern United States.

Hard courts are mainly found in the United States and the UK. But you should be able to find different surfaces at local tennis clubs.