Could Tennis Courts Be Disadvantaging Players

Female tennis player waiting for a service

One of the beauties of tennis is seeing players battle it out on different surfaces; the French Open is played on clay, Wimbledon on grass, and the US Open on hard courts. Intriguingly, elite tennis players deliver different results on different courts; for example, in male tennis, Rafael Nadal does best on clay, Roger Federer is hard to beat on grass, and Novak Djokovic dominates on hard courts.

There seems to be enough evidence that the nature of playing surface a player learns tennis on affects their long-term performances, with players who developed on clay surfaces generally registering better results. If you are looking to build a tennis court in Salt Lake City, the type of playing surface is one factor you should discuss with your contractor.

American players suffer on clay

Tennis is mainly played on clay, grass, and hard court surfaces. Hard courts are made out of a mixture of rigid materials such as concrete and asphalt. The surface is then covered with acrylic materials to provide some cushioning for the players. In the US, tennis courts are predominantly hard courts, and the performance of US players on the global stage begs the question whether playing on hard courts puts US players at a disadvantage on the big staged.

Since 1968, only three American male players have won the French Open, which is played on the clay courts of the Stade Roland Garros in Paris; the last male American player to win in the court was Andre Agassi in 1999. In contrast,  Martina Navratilova, Rafael Nadal, Chris Evert, Roger Federer, all of whom started playing on clay surfaces at an early age, have more than 70 grand slams among them.

Advantages of clay courts for tennis learners

Close up view of tennis racket and balls on the clay tennis court

Players who are used to playing on hard surfaces struggle on clay courts while players who developed on clay surfaces adapt to grass and hard courts quickly. So what characteristics of clay courts make them hostile to hard court players? Compared with grass and hard courts, the ball bounces higher and slower on clay courts.

This forces the players to rely on strategy rather than big serves. On a hard court, the ball bounces fast and low, leaving the player with little time to think. In the end, the players with quick reflexes and powerful shots carry the day on hard courts.

For young players who are learning tennis, clay courts are more suitable than hard courts. Games take longer on clay courts. Thus players who learn tennis on clay soils develop endurance and mental strength from an early age. Above all, these players learn to be patient during the game. In terms of safety, clay courts are better because they exert less pressure on the joints, thus reducing injuries.

Clay courts may be the best when it comes to talent development, but when deciding which type of court your Salt Lake City tennis court contractor should construct, there is a myriad of factors to consider.

Clay courts are cheaper to construct than hard courts, but the maintenance costs may drive the cumulative costs up. For example, you’ll need to repaint and roll a clay court more often than you would do on a hard court. Also, if you are constructing an outdoor clay court, it could be unusable in the wet season.