Type of tennis courts and their influence on ball bounce & speed

Type of tennis courts and their influence on ball bounce & speed

Roland Garros, Wimbledon or the Australian Open are some of the most important tennis tournaments throughout the world where we can admire the game of the best tennis players in the professional circuit. Although it would be difficult to choose which is our favorite, certainly the tennis players who participate in these competitions would have it quite clear: choose the tournament with the surface that best suits your style of play. That is why phrases such as “Rafa Nadal is the king of clay” or “Roger Federer is unbeatable in grass” make us see how much the type of court affects the game style that tennis players should adopt.  Because of all of this, every good tennis lover should find out what are the different surfaces on which it is played and how they alter the behavior of the ball and the style of the tennis player.

What kind of game surfaces exist?

If we take a look at the long list of tennis courts that we can find along the length and breadth of the planet, mainly we are going to bump into four basic areas where it can be possible to play in:

  • Grass or turf: this type of surface is typically found only in the professional circuit, and is increasingly less widespread as it requires a very expensive and constant maintenance. Playing on grass courts is almost impossible to do outside of Great Britain, where tournaments as famous as Wimbledon or the Queen’s tournament are disputed.
  • Clay or red, green, and blue clay: as with grass, this type of surface is almost impossible to find outside of more professional tennis centers, therefore it is very complicated for an amateur to be able to set foot a court like this. This is due to the extremely high maintenance they require and that, in addition, they get pretty dirty. Roland Garros in Paris, is the most famous tournament that is disputed over red clay – also known as clay-.  We also find tournaments such as the Charleston and Ponte Vedra, both in the United States, they are the only ones in the professional circuit that are played on green clay. In addition, at the Masters in Madrid in 2012 a new type of clay with a hint of blue was implemented which received considerable criticism.
  • Hard or cement: What is most common is for the majority of tennis enthusiasts to dispute their matches over cement courts, because they are the easiest to find outside of the technical sports centers. They are built in this material for being very clean, durable and with a fairly cheap maintenance. These types of hard courts prevent irregularities in the path of the ball and produce bounces half way between the grass and clay ones. Tournaments as important as the US Open or the Australian Open are played on hard surfaces.
  • Indoor Synthetic, carpet or indoor courts: These types of surfaces vary in terms of materials, textures and thicknesses. Although the Paris’ Masters was played for quite a few years on this type of surface, since the year 2009, the ATP banned use them to contest professional tournaments.
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How does the type of surface condition the player's game?

As mentioned earlier, the type of surface conditions, and a lot, the style of game that the tennis player should maintain throughout the game. This way, depending on the material they are built with, we find slow, fast and ultra-fast courts:

  • The slow courts make the bounces of the ball higher and slower and, therefore, the player has more time to prepare the stroke. This causes the points that are played in these courts to be slower and the matches longer and with much greater physical wear and tear. This type of surfaces are a favorite of the long-distance players, who wait for the ball at the back of the court. The clay ones would be within the slower courts.
  • On the other hand, the fast courts lead to faster and lower bounces, in which the player must fight very brief points in which the preparation of the stroke must be instantaneous. In these types of tracks it is imperative to have a good set of knees to move fast through the court, and use very little the back, giving greater importance to the service and the net games. The grass courts would be in this group, thanks to their irregular bounces with many changes of height and direction.
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Finally, it is necessary to mention that there are also ultra-fast tracks with a very high speed game, in which the serves and volleys are extremely important and the reaction time between strokes is very small. Within this type of courts we find the interior synthetic surfaces that are quite faster than the hard ones and even the grass ones.

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