You probably don’t know but the tennis court surface is the most important aspect of tennis. There are other important things as well such as tennis equipment but that’s another topic. Tennis court types greatly affect one’s performance.
If you have a little bit of knowledge about tennis then you probably know that Roger Federer is all time best grass court player and Rafael Nadal is the best clay court player. Both players play the same sport but perform differently on different tennis courts.
That’s strange right but I will help you understand the reason with a detailed overview of tennis court types.
Table of Contents
Tennis Court Types
International Tennis Federation (ITF) has standardized tennis court size but there is no limitation on the tennis court surface. There are multiple tennis court types all around the world. The Famous Wimbledon Tennis court has a grass tennis court while the Diamond Court at National Tennis Center, Beijing has a hard court surface.
A competitive Tennis court must be rectangular. Standard tennis court dimensions are; length of a tennis court should be 23.77 meters. The width varies for singles it should be 8.23 meters and for doubles 10.97 meters.
To easily distinguish tennis courts surface there are two types. Hard tennis courts and soft tennis courts. Hard tennis courts are paved surfaces usually with concrete or asphalt. On the other hand, soft tennis courts are the total opposite. Soft tennis courts are not paved, the court surface is usually clay or grass.
Furthermore, tennis courts are of two types. Indoor tennis courts and Outdoor tennis. Usually, Outdoor tennis courts are preferred but in areas where the weather conditions are unpredictable or harsh then indoor tennis courts are used.
There is a wide population of tennis players that prefer to play on indoor tennis courts. Types of Indoor tennis courts are a lot different than outdoor tennis but in terms of tennis court surface, there is not much difference.
How Tennis Courts Are Made?
Tennis Court consists of four layers. The first layer is the Formation followed by Foundation, Regulating Base and the topmost layer is the wearing surface.
The first layer of a tennis court is usually the formation. The purpose of this layer is to flatten the surface and also create a barrier between the ground and the actual court. It also blocks roots that can damage the court in the future.
After the soil is leveled, different types of rollers are driven across the court to make sure the soil is 98% compact. Soil can never be compacted 100% that’s why we aim for 98%. The main thing that helps the soil to reach maximum compaction is water. Without water, the soil can never be compacted properly.
The second layer of a tennis court consists of a foundation. Before the Foundation layer is laid a geotextile membrane ( made of woven or fleecy PE) is laid down. Its purpose is to segregate the formation from the foundation and distribute the load.
The Foundation layer is made from grade-size stones. Usually, a mixture of sizes of 14mm to 28mm is used. Layering smaller aggregates closer to the formation layer is preferred. The Foundation layer allows water to drain therefore preventing the court from any future frost damage.
But there are some types of tennis courts that need some moisture such as clay and grass court so for these courts the foundation should not drain the water completely.
Regulating Base is the second-most layer of the tennis court. This layer varies for each tennis court; for Concrete or Acrylic courts the regulating base is poured differently while on the other hand for grass or clay tennis courts, the regulating base is different. Overall the main purpose of this layer is to provide a flat and stable surface.
Same as Regulating Base, the Wearing Surface also varies for every tennis court. It’s the topmost layer of a tennis court. This layer is poured to give a finishing touch to the tennis court.
How Many Tennis Court Types Are There?
In general, there are four main types of tennis courts. Grass Courts, Clay Courts, Acrylic Courts, and Artificial Courts. The dimensions of all four tennis court types are the same but the material used and the building process of each court are different.
1. Grass Court
Grass Tennis courts also known as lawn tennis courts are not much popular nowadays mainly due to high maintenance, another reason is playing on a grass court is impossible if there is even a little bit of rain. Still, the world’s most popular grand slam tennis event at Wimbledon is played on the grass court.
Manufacturing a grass court is quite complex as well so that can be another reason for the unpopularity of grass courts.
A Grass court consists of 5 layers.
- On the first layer of a grass court, a perforated plastic drainage pipe is installed. Grass courts require a regular sprinkling of water so to drain the excess water a drainage pipe is installed.
- The second layer is consist of a permeable backfill. Usually, clean sand or crushed rocks are used as a permeable backfill. Its purpose is to provide a free-draining connection between the drainage pipe and the top layer.
- To separate the tennis court surface from the soil a 50mm binding layer of aggregate is used. Grade-size stones, 14mm to 28mm in size are laid as a binding layer. The stones also act as drainage.
- After the foundation layer is laid 100mm to 150mm of topsoil is poured. The topsoil is a mixture of clay, sand, and silt. It’s also called the root zone.
- Now the final layer of a grass court is the grass. 8mm to 12mm of grass turf is laid. The choice of grass turf depends on the drainage system and the usage of the court.
2. Clay Court
Another tennis court type is clay or sand tennis court. Clay Courts are very unpopular nowadays, the reasons behind the unpopularity of clay tennis courts are almost the same grass tennis courts.
But still, there is one Clay Court Grand Slam; The French Open. Clay courts are more popular in Continental Europe and Latin America.
Clay courts are of two types; Red Clay and Green Clay Court. Red Clay Courts are soft and more popular while green clay courts have a hard surface. The building of both types of clay court is the same, the only difference is the type of clay that is used on the top layer.
Let’s take a look at the building process of clay courts.
- After leveling the soil the first layer of geotextile membrane made of woven or fleecy PE is laid on the soil. The purpose of this layer is to create a barrier between the soil and the top layer.
- 120mm to 600mm compact depth of foundation is poured on the first layer of geotextile membrane. The foundation usually consists of grade-sized stones which are great for drainage and also prevent frost damage.
- The Third, Fourth, and Fifth layers of the clay tennis court consist of three different types of graded aggregate. On the third layer, 60mm to 100mm of graded aggregate is poured which provides capillary action.
- Again on the fourth layer, 40mm to 50mm of compacted crushed aggregate is laid.
- On the final layer, a fine crushed aggregate of sand is laid. The top layer is built with a 0.25 to 0.35% slope for above-ground irrigation.
3. Acrylic Court
Acrylic Courts are the most popular type of tennis court nowadays. The durability of the Acrylic tennis court is much more than grass or clay tennis courts while the maintenance cost is much lower and is not needed very often.
Due to the hardness of the Acrylic Tennis Court surface, the ball travels at a speed slower than on grass and faster than on clay court due to low energy absorption that’s why tennis ball bounces higher and moves faster. Acrylic courts are considered as most comfortable tennis courts to be played on.
The building process of the Acrylic court is the same as Clay Court. The only difference is the top layer which is made of Acrylic or Polyurethane coating. The Acrylic coating makes the tennis court more durable therefore it last long and does not break or crack even in harsh weather conditions.
5. Artificial Grass And Artificial Clay Court
Artificial courts are used in indoor tennis courts. These tennis courts don’t require regular maintenance or upgrades therefore are best for beginner players. Artificial courts are usually soft hence kinder to your joints and limbs.
Recently International Tennis Federation (ITF) has approved Artificial Tennis Courts as category 2 medium/slow pace courts. Artificial Tennis Courts are made using artificial grass carpet filled with sand. Some manufacturers also use red dye in the sand to make it look like red clay.
The base of Artificial Grass and Clay Court consists of four layers.
- On the first layer, at least 150mm of compacted susceptible carboniferous limestone or granite is laid.
- The second layer is consist of a 40mm depth base course of porous asphalt.
- On top of the second layer, 25mm grade 6mm in diameter aggregate porous asphalt is laid.
- For Artificial Grass Court, A roll of Artificial grass is laid on the top while for the Artificial Clay Court, sand-filled artificial grass carpet is laid.
It’s hard to determine the best tennis court type because, at the end of the day, it’s all about personal preference. As I have mentioned at the beginning Roger Federer is all time best grass court player and Rafael Nadal is the best clay court player both players perform differently on different tennis courts.
To determine the best tennis court for yourself the one thing you can do is play on all four types of tennis courts and see on which tennis court you are able to play more comfortably. If that’s not possible then read the pros and cons that I have mentioned and work out the best tennis court for yourself.
Questions You Might Ask
What are the 4 types of tennis courts?
- Grass Court
- Clay Court
- Acrylic Court
- Artificial Grass and Clay Court
What are the 7 different tennis court surfaces?
- Artificial Clay
- Wood and Tile
What is the most common tennis court?
Acrylic or Hard Court is the most common tennis court type. These courts are widely used in the USA, and the main reason behind their popularity of these courts is their durability.
What is the easiest tennis court to play on?
Clay Court is kinder to your joints and limbs due to its soft surface therefore it’s the easiest tennis court to play on.
Which tennis court is best for beginners?
Hard Court is considered best for beginner players. It provides the optimal speed and bounces hence it’s best for beginner players to play.
Hey, it’s 32 years old Robert Dexter here, a huge fan of Roger Federer. I love tennis since the age of 12. I write about tennis whenever possible. I have keen interest in equipment and the technicalities of tennis. Other than tennis, I love to post new stories on Instagram, read books and cooking.