What is The Best Tennis Court Surface?

Which tennis court surface suits your playing style?

You could be forgiven for thinking that all tennis court surfaces pretty much play the same way, but in reality, this could not be further from the truth.  There are four main surface types in professional tennis - hard court, grass court, clay court, and carpet.  There are variations of each, but these are the main four surfaces.

Like with anything in life, everything is about personal preference, and choosing the best tennis court surface is no different. A grass court surface plays incredibly differently to a clay court surface, therefore it all depends on what surface suits your type of game.  So, by weighing up the pros and cons of each surface, we'll analyse exactly what type of surface would suit your playing style the most.

Grass Court Surface

Regarded by many as the most difficult surface of them all, grass is by far the fastest surface in the sport. Expect the ball to zip through the court with pace and a low bounce. You won't have much time to react on this surface, so you will more than likely need to rely on instinctive hitting.  Flat hitters of the ball like Andy Murray and Roger Federer tend to be very successful on grass, whereas their excellent movement is also a key factor on this surface.

You are highly unlikely to find a grass court surface at your local tennis park, as it is very expensive to maintain. If you're desperate to play on grass, then artificial grass (astro turf) is the best alternative to the real stuff, and it is fairly accessible at some local clubs.

Clay Court Surface

If you're pretty handy on a grass court then you might struggle on clay. Clay court is the complete opposite to grass, playing much slower with a considerably higher bounce.  The red dirt tends to suit players like Rafael Nadal who use heavy top spin with loopy balls.  If you prefer to play behind the baseline with more time on the ball, then clay would probably suit your game the best.

Although easily accessible in France, Spain and much of South America, you will find it hard to find a good red clay court in many other major tennis countries like the UK, Australia and USA.  However, American black clay is a cheaper alternative which you may find in some selected clubs.  Like grass, clay does need constant maintaining, which is why most local tennis parks opt for hard courts instead.

Carpet Surface

Carpet is rarely used on the ATP and WTA circuits these days, but it was a big part of the calendar before the millennium.  Carpet tends to play in a similar fashion to grass, but it is slightly slower and more rain proof. A fast mover with a variety of shots like Novak Djokovic, would make an ideal carpet court player.

With less grass courts available at local clubs and leisure centres, carpet has become a popular alternative as it is both cheaper and easier to maintain.

Hard Court Surface

Over 75% of the ATP and WTA tours are played on hard court surfaces. At professional level, there is only one type of hard court, which is a smooth acrylic-based surface.  These types of hard courts can vary ever so slightly, with some playing quicker than others.

Your standard acrylic-based hard court is extremely durable, and does not require much maintenance, compared to the two natural surfaces. However, it is very unlikely you'll find an acrylic-based hard court at your local tennis park, because they are considerably more expensive to build than your standard tarmac court.

Other Types of Hard Court

Tarmac: The vast majority of club and local park tennis courts in countries like the UK, are made of tarmac.  Make no mistake, a freshly laid tarmac court is perfectly fine to play on, but it doesn't take long for this surface to experience severe wear and tear.  And although tarmac is classified as a hard court surface, playing wise, it does not resemble that of the acrylic-based hard courts that are used on the professional tour.

Tarmac is by far the cheapest of all tennis court surfaces, and that is why you are likely to see so many of them at your local clubs and tennis parks. The problem is, tarmac is not durable, and it can be an absolute nightmare to play on.  Once the surface starts to get damaged, it can be almost unplayable.

Resin Bound Surface: Resin bound tennis court surfaces seem to be growing in popularity in the UK.  A resin bound surface is far more durable than tarmac, and it stays smoother for a much longer period of time.  Resin bound is slightly more expensive than tarmac, but the longevity of the court counteracts the price.  Resin bound courts also play better than tarmac, and offer a fairer comparison to the acrylic-based hard courts used at a higher level.

Over the coming years, you will likely see an increasing amount of resin bound tennis courts replacing the old tarmac surfaces at your local clubs and tennis parks. A vast amount of people who privately own a tennis court are now opting for the durable, long-lasting resin bound surface, and although it is very unlikely to appear on the ATP and WTA circuits any time soon, the resin bound court does offer you the best alternative to acrylic-based hard courts.

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