It can be argued that any surface could essentially be used for tennis! Take the hardwood floor in your living room for instance; paint some lines and there you have it: a court! On sand? No problem! Nail down your volley!
However, to really dive deep into the game and learn how to play it like a pro, you’re going to want to practice on at least one of the following Grand Slam surfaces: hard court, grass court, or clay court. Need help picking a favourite? Here’s a round up of each that includes a sales line and a few fast facts!
The tagline: “Welcome to the democratic state!”
- Hard courts are generally made from asphalt or concrete. Pro arenas usually top the surface up with a synthetic layer (like a rubberized carpet) to soften the court. Australian Open using a material called Plexicushion and the US Open uses DecoTurf.
- Hard courts are now the most common type of playing surface on the pro tour.
- Considered fairly fast courts with a predictable ball bounce, hard court surfaces accommodate players with powerhouse forehands and serves.
- With that however, they are also described as the most democratic of the courts, providing an equal opportunity to various types of playing styles (baseline players, service players, volley players, etc.) and encourage players to develop an all-court game.
- The US Open tournament made the switch from clay to hard courts in 1978 and the Canadian Open (now Rogers Cup) followed suit a year later.
Major tournaments: Wimbledon
The tagline: “The rest are just copy cats!”
- Thanks to “Lawn Tennis” grass is the original tennis court surface.
- Requiring a whole-lotta love, grass courts are the most expensive courts to maintain, which is why they are now rare and unusual.
- On the pro tennis tour, the “grass court season” only lasts for four weeks.
- How the ball reacts on grass courts actually has a lot to do with the weather. The ball will feel heavier and slower on damp cold days and lighter and faster on warm days.
- Despite this, compared to a clay and hard surface, grass offers a very low ball bounce, and the direction of the ball bounce is dependant on how healthy and well maintained the court is. (Wimbledon keeps its perennial rye grass cut at 10mm.)
Major tournaments: French Open
The tagline: “Slow and steady wins the race!”
- Clay courts are commonly constructed out of crushed shale, stone or brick.
- There are two types: Red Clay (made out of crushed brick) and Green Clay (aka: Har-Tru, made from crushed basalt).
- As the slowest of all of the surfaces they are said to be favoured by baseline players that boast strong, heavy top spin on their shot (ahem, Rafael Nadal, the “King of Clay”).
- Service aces are hard to come by on clay courts. On average, the ATP top 20 has hit 43.5% fewer aces on clay than on hard court. (Milos Raonic has the career high at 12.9 per 100 serves.)
- With rallies generally running longer (slow game, high bounce) and the slippery nature of the surface, it’s said to be the most physically demanding of all the courts.