Types of Tennis Courts
Tennis has a long history and is now played on a variety of surface materials: clay, grass, acrylic hard courts, synthetic hard courts, and carpet. Each type of material provides its own advantages and offers unique challenges to players. Often certain playing styles will work better on some types and less effectively on others.
Clay courts are made of compressed shale, stone, or brick. While they are relatively easy and cheap to install, long-term maintenance can be quite expensive, particularly when compared to the costs of artificial tennis court surfaces. The water balance within the clay must be carefully monitored and adjusted, and the court must be rolled periodically to preserve its flatness.
In terms of play, clay courts are traditionally used in the French Open. These courts characteristically have a slower game and give balls a higher bounce. They tend to favor baseline players, as well. These courts are most popular in Europe and Latin America.
Tennis courts with grass surfaces are not as common today as they have been in the past due to the high maintenance costs of constant watering and mowing. They are also more impacted by weather conditions than clay or hard court surfaces are. Dirt is hard-packed and the grass must be trimmed very short. Grass is the fastest type of court because of its low bounce capacity. Players must get to the ball much more quickly than with clay or hard court. This means that players with stronger serve-and-volley skills will generally perform better. The grass court is the signature of Wimbledon.
Hard courts can range from faster to slower speeds depending on the quantity and size of sand mixed into the paint coating. Hard courts tend to equalize the playing field in terms of athletic style. An acrylic hard court is used in the US Open and a synthetic for the Australian Open. While acrylic courts are more rigid and create a faster game, they can also be rough on the human body. To combat this, artificial tennis court surfaces were created to allow for similar usability and low maintenance, but also allow for greater shock absorption for players. These courts have been installed everywhere from the White House and the Sony Ericsson Open to high schools and tennis clubs around the world.
Carpet courts are removable tennis court surfaces. These can be made from any of several materials, from artificial turf to hard rubber. In general, carpeted courts make for a fast game.