A tennis court is where the game of tennis is played. It is a firm rectangular surface with a low net stretched across the center. The same surface can be used to play both doubles and singles.
Tennis is played on a rectangular flat surface, usually of grass, clay, concrete (hard court) or a synthetic suspended court. The court is 78 feet (23.77 m) long, and its width is 27 feet (8.23 m) for singles matches and 36 feet (10.97 m) for doubles matches. Additional clear space around the court is needed in order for players to reach overrun balls for a total of 60 feet wide and 120 long. A net is stretched across the full width of the court, parallel with the baselines, dividing it into two equal ends. The net is 3 feet 6 inches (1.07 m) high at the posts, and 3 feet (914 mm) high in the center.
Types of tennis courts
- See also: Tennis#Surface
There are four main types of courts depending on the materials used for the court surface: clay courts, hard courts, grass courts and indoor courts (carpet, rubber or wood). Each playing surface has its own characteristics which affect the playing style of the game.
Of the Grand Slam tournaments, the U.S. Open and Australian Open use hardcourts (though both used grass courts in the past, and the U.S. Open also used clay courts from 1975 through 1977), the French Open is played on clay (though it too was played on grass before 1928), and Wimbledon is played on grass.
Clay courts are made of crushed shale, stone or brick. The red clay is slower than the green, or Har-Tru "American" clay. The French Open uses clay courts, making it unique among the Grand Slam titles.
Clay courts slow down the ball and produce a high bounce when compared to grass courts or hard courts. For this reason, the clay court takes away some advantage of big serves, which makes it hard for serve-based players to dominate on the surface.
Although more traditional and cheaper to construct than other types of tennis courts, the maintenance costs of a clay surface are higher than those of hard courts. Clay courts need to be rolled to preserve flatness. The clay's water content must be balanced; green courts generally require the courts to be sloped to allow water run-off.
Clay courts are more common in Europe and South America than in North America. In the United States, courts made of green clay, also known as "rubico", are often called "clay," but are not made of the same clay used in most European and South American countries.
Grass courts are the fastest type of tennis court in common use (AstroTurf
is faster but is primarily only used for personal courts). They consist of grass grown on very hard-packed soil, similar to golf greens, which adds an additional variable: bounces depend on how healthy the grass is, how recently it has been mown, and the wear and tear of recent play. Points
are usually very quick where fast, low bounces keep rallies short, and the serve
plays a more important role than on other surfaces. Grass courts tend to favor serve-and-volley
tennis players, such as John McEnroe
and Pete Sampras
. The International Tennis Hall of Fame
in Newport, RI
comprises grass courts. The surface is less firm and more slippery than hard courts, causing the ball to slide and bounce lower, and so players must reach the ball faster. Serve and volley players take advantage of the surface by serving the ball (usually a slice serve because of its effectiveness on grass) and then running to the net to cut off the return of serve, leaving their opponent with little time to reach the low-bouncing, fast-moving ball. Players often hit flatter shots to increase power and allow the ball to travel faster after and before the ball hits the ground. However, Wimbledon, the most famous grass tournament, has slowed down it grass courts as early as 2001. Players have said that the courts of Wimbledon have become slower, heavier, and high bouncing . In 2001, Wimbledon organizers had changed the grass to 100% perrenial rye in addition to changing to a harder and denser soil with both providing for a higher bounce to the ball. Grass specialist, Tim Henman, voiced out against this change in 2002 by stating, "What on earth is going on here? I'm on a grass court and it's the slowest court I've played on this year" . As a result, serving and vollying has become rare at Wimbledon and dominant baseliners such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have won the most recent titles. Grass courts were once among the most common tennis surfaces. However, due to high maintenance costs, grass courts are now rare as they must be watered and mowed often, and take a longer time to dry after rain than hard courts. For a more extensive discussion of the skills most advantageous on grass court, see grass-court specialist
(All Weather Surfaces)
Hard courts, usually made of concrete or asphalt, are considered "medium" surfaces, where fast hard-hitting players have a slight advantage. Hard courts can vary in speed, but they are faster than clay and slower than grass courts, which allows the ball to slide. These courts are considered the most equal for all playing styles. The U.S. Open
is played on DecoTurf
, an acrylic hard court, while the Australian Open
is played on a synthetic hardcourt Plexicushion
, having previously used Rebound Ace
The main difference between a synthetic hardcourt and true hardcourt surface is the level of hardness. Synthetic hardcourts are normally softer, and feel more spongy. Consequently, when the ball bounces on this surface a large part of the ball's energy is absorbed by the surface and reduces its speed. On a hard surface the loss of energy is negligible because the surface provides less cushion to the bouncing ball. The amount of sand used in the top paint and the size of the sand also determines the speed - more sand means less speed and larger sand particles will slow the speed of play. The amount of friction can also be altered and more friction will produce a clay court effect, where topspin is magnified. The extra grip/friction will resist the sliding effect of the ball and the resistance will force the ball to change its rotation. The extra grip provided by the surface can resist the movement of the player and can cause injury.
The ITF classifies Novacrylic Combination Surface as a type two category (medium/medium fast) All weather tennis court surface/hardcourt.
Special surfaces can only be used indoors. Most commonly carpet surfaces, carpet courts vary in playing characteristics due to differences in thickness, texture, and materials used in the base and yarn. Suspended surfaces may be used indoors. The ATP tennis tour also considers rubber surfaces as carpet, such as that of the Paris Masters
. While being the most common surface for real tennis
, wood is the rarest surface for tennis. It is also the fastest surface, which bounces faster and lower than grass. There are many other types of indoor surfaces including artificial grass.
Common tennis court terms:
- Ad court (short for "advantage court"): the left side of the receiving team, the right side of the opponent's court as viewed from the server's side, significant as the receiving side for an Ad point.
- Alley (Tramlines): the zone between the single court and the doubles court, one on the Ad side, one on the Deuce side. These are only used when playing doubles.
- Back Court ('No man's land'): the area between the baseline and the service line. It is not recommended to play in this area because this is where balls usually bounce.
- Baseline: The line dividing the "out" area from the "in" area made up of the back line of the back court and the small back side of the alleys.
- Center line: The line dividing the two service boxes.
- Center Mark: The 12-inch mark at the halfway point of the baseline used to distinguish the two halves (and service boxes) of a tennis court.
- Deuce court: the right side of the receiving team, the left side of the opponent's court as viewed from the server's side, significant as the receiving side for a deuce point.
- Middle T: See T.
- Service box: is made up of the singles boundary and the closest line that runs parallel with the net. There is a left and right service box that is divided by the line running down the center of the court.
- Service Line: the line that is parallel to the net and is located between the baseline and the net. It marks the end of the service boxes.
- Side T: The T shape formed by the service line and the sideline. There are two such side Ts.
- T or Middle T: The T shape formed by the service line and the center line.