Tennis is a sport that can be played on many different surfaces. Each surface has different playing characteristics which will affect the style of play and a players natural playing ability.
The International Tennis Federation classify each surface based on speed of the surface, varying from slow which is level one, up to fast at level 5.
There are four main types of surface for tennis courts:
Speed – 5
Grass is the traditional lawn tennis surface and famously the signature courts of Wimbledon. It’s not a surface you’ll see that often these days due to the constant maintenance required to keep the courts in tip-top condition
This surface plays very quick and the ball generally bounces low, keeping rallies relatively short. On grass, players must get to the ball much more quickly than on clay or hard courts and often plays into the hands of net players and those who like to serve and volley as a tactic. The serve also plays more of a key part in the game than it does on other surfaces.
Example courts : Wimbledon
Speed – 1
Clay courts are made of crushed shale, stone or brick. This surface slows down the ball and produces a slow and high bounce compared to other surfaces. This makes rallies generally longer and more suitable for base line players and players who like to play tactically using lots of spin and finding great angles.
This surface takes away many of the advantages of big serves, making it hard for players who rely heavily on their serve to dominate on clay. One of the most famous clay court tournaments in the world is the French Open.
Examples : French Open
Speed – 3-4
As the name suggests hard courts are made of uniformed, rigid materials with an acrylic surface layer. This surface is very popular across the world as it generally gives a good even and ‘all round’ playing experience and offers more consistency than other outdoor surfaces.
Although the speed of play on hard courts can depend on the exact material used, they are generally faster than clay, but not as fast as grass. Both the Australian and US opens are played on this surface. The US Open is played on an acrylic hard court while the Australian Open is played on a synthetic surface.
Examples : US Open
Speed: 3 – 5
This is a synthetic surface with the appearance of grass and in many ways plays similarly. The ball will move through quickly and generally keep low but is also a good surface for all standards of player to learn on as the bounce is even and provides a consistent level of spin. You’ll find this surface on all tennis courts at Neilson beachclubs.
Whilst these are the main surfaces, the ITF also has classifications for concrete, asphalt and carpet courts surfaces.