The Tennis Court, Dimensions And Surfaces
By J. Lloyd
Tennis courts are standard in dimension, but vary widely in surface material. Tennis rules dictate the length, width, and placement of the lines on a tennis court. Tennis courts have a variety of surfaces and can be either outdoors or indoors. In this article, we will introduce the basic dimensions and aspects of the tennis courts and discuss the different types of tennis court surfaces.
The rules of tennis dictate that tennis courts be 78 feet long from baseline to baseline. A net, 3 feet high in the middle, divides the court into two equal halves. Tennis courts are 36 feet wide from doubles sideline to doubles sideline, and 27 feet wide from singles sideline to singles sideline.
Unlike the dimensions of a tennis court, the tennis court surface can vary in character. The different surfaces have different characteristics that affect the style of play. Common surfaces for outdoor tennis courts include grass, red clay, green clay, and hard courts. In addition, indoor tennis courts often have hard surfaces or synthetic, carpet-like surfaces.
The very first tennis courts were made of grass. While the number of grass tennis courts has decreased in recent years, some remain, and the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament, The Championships at Wimbledon, is still played on grass tennis courts.
Grass tennis courts are considered a fast surface because the ball moves quickly through the court when it bounces. Typically, the ball stays low and close to the ground. Because of the speed of the court and the unreliability of the bounce, historically players playing on grass tennis courts prefer to volley the ball out of the air whenever possible.
Red clay and green clay are the two types of clay, or slow, court surfaces. Red clay tennis courts are made of natural clay or crushed red brick. The French Open is played on red clay courts. Green clay, the more common type of clay court in the U.S., is made of Har-Tru, a mixture of crushed stone, rubber, and plastics. Clay courts are considered slow because the ball bounces more slowly off the court. Typically, players playing on clay tennis courts prefer to hit balls off the bounce from behind the baseline.
Hard courts, the most common court surface in the U.S., are another fast court surface. Hard courts are made of asphalt or concrete coated with a thin sealer and special paint. Some types of hard courts have more extensive, rubberized coatings. The ball bounces high off hard tennis court surfaces and moves through the court quickly. Because the ball has a reliable bounce and the ball moves quickly off the court, players can employ a variety of tactics. Generally, aggressive play is preferred.
Finally, tennis players also play indoors, especially during the winter, on indoor tennis courts. Indoor tennis court surfaces are made of concrete or a synthetic or plastic material that mimics grass. Indoor tennis courts are generally the fastest tennis court surface of all. At the professional level, hard serves, volleys, and powerful ground strokes dominate matches on indoor tennis courts.