Clay, Grass, Carpet, or Hard Courts: What's Your Style of Tennis?

It’s estimated that according to the International Tennis Federation there are 750,000 to one million tennis courts in the world. Luckily for tennis lovers everywhere that’s a ton of courts to play on. Tennis courts themselves can be made of a variety of different materials. If you have played the sport for a number of years then you have probably played on some of these specialized courts.


In professional matches there are strict regulations regarding all aspects of the sport including court material, rackets, and even the balls are subject to guidelines. The number one rule of the ITF’s yearly guide is all about the court. It details the specific size guidelines of each court for professional use. Although it doesn’t say anything about the court surface material itself, that does need to be classified though. Any type of court whether it’s clay, grass, carpet, or other hard surface falls into five classes with a “Court Pace Rating.” Category 1 is “slow” while it goes up in speed to the fastest at level 5.


All About Clay Courts


Clay tends to fall in the slower category of a Level 1 or 2 court. For example, The French Open is played on a unique clay court. Clay is a combination of crushed materials like shale, and can be red or green. One of the best benefits of clay courts is that you can clearly see where the ball leaves an impression. That makes line judging calls much easier. The terrain does take a little getting used to playing on, because players have to slide into their shots. It’s much easier to run and stop short on other court surfaces.  


Grass Types: Artificial and Real


Artificial grass or astroturf falls into a Level 2 or 3 pace rating. Currently there aren’t any real grass surfaces that are certified to play on. It’s probably due to the fact that it’s so hard to maintain with a very short season.


Faux grass is not only easier to maintain, but it doesn't break down in the way that real grass does. Think of the most famous real grass court in the world, Wimbledon. After a few weeks of playing, the grass has seen better days. They are more common in Britain than the United States because when wet they can get quite slippery.


Carpet Sounds Interesting


There are different carpet courts in all five categories. That is due to the fact that there are so many varieties of carpet fibers available. It can be easily manipulated to suit an individual courts needs. For example “SportFlex M” is a carpeted court in Italy manufactured by Mondo Sport and Flooring, a very popular sport flooring company for indoor and outdoor courts.


Hard Courts Are the Most Common


Your local community tennis court is most likely going to be a hard court. The US Open and the Australian Open use a hard court surface. It’s made of a uniform material that is covered with an acrylic surface layer to prevent cracks and holes over time. The base is usually concrete or asphalt. The US Open uses “DecoTurf”which is manufactured by California Products Corporation. They even offer it in twelve different customizable colors, so if you want to build your very own tennis court you have a lot to choose from. Can you imagine how good you would get playing on your own court?