Tennis can be played on three different tennis court types – clay courts, grass courts, and hard courts – each with its own characteristics, which will affect how the games are played.
Each offers its own challenges and certain characteristics which will suit some tennis players more than others; understanding the types of tennis courts is essential for any tennis bettor, similarly how you need to understand how different tracks behave in motorsports.
This article will take a closer look at the three tennis courts, explain the differences, and how they will affect the players, helping you better understand tennis basics and improve your ability to accurately analyse games and professional tournaments.
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Tennis Court Surface Types
In tennis, there are three main types of tennis courts – grass courts, clay courts, and hard courts, used for all notable tennis tournaments, from lesser events to Grand Slam tournaments.
The difference between the three is very noticeable.
- Grass tennis courts – played on either natural grass or artificial grass
- Clay tennis courts – played on red or green clay
- Hard courts – played on various brands of hardcourt surfaces
The best tennis players in the world will perform well on any type of tennis court, but even they have a preferred surface which suits their style of play. For example, Roger Federer ended his tennis career with an 81.42% career win rate across all tennis courts but has only managed a 75.24% win rate on clay and an 86.78% win rate on grass.
His worse record in grass court matches mainly concerns the challenges playing on grass surfaces brings, offering a much faster game with a lower bounce. But even here, you can’t take everything at face value.
Grass courts typically favour big servers, and despite Roger Federer being known as one of the best servers in the world, his record on grass didn’t reflect it. Regardless, despite some exceptions to the rules, each court type has characteristics which will benefit players with specific styles off play more than others.
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Grass Tennis Courts
Grass-covered courts are the rarest of the three. They are rarely used across notable tennis tournaments nowadays, mainly because they’re very expensive to maintain – compared to hard and clay courts. However, a part of any tennis season is still played on a grass surface, including the oldest tennis tournament in the world – Wimbledon, as the only Grand Slam played on a grass court.
Characteristics Of Grass Courts
A quick dabble into the tennis court stats shows that an average ATP player holds serve about 7% more on grass, faces 0.10 fewer break points per game, and achieves 0.26 more aces than on clay. But what does that mean?
In short, those numbers show that grass courts tend to be faster than clay courts and hard courts, which tends to benefit players who have a big serve. Being able to play good drop shots, excellent net skills, and serve/volley style are also preferred for those who want to do well on grass courts.
While very beneficial for grass court games, those qualities don’t translate well to clay courts, which explains why some of the top clay court players don’t do well on grass and vice versa – including Rodger Federer.
Betting On Grass Court Matches/Tournaments
When betting on games played on grass courts, you should keep an eye on players who have a strong serve and enjoy playing faster games. Although a certain playstyle doesn’t guarantee success when faced with a more skilled player, players who like to play near the net and have strong serves will typically do better against classic baseliners.
Another factor that is often overlooked is the effect of faster games on grass courts, translating to shorter matches and less fatigue. This should be taken with a grain of salt since faster games take a lot out of the players, but unlike in clay court tennis tournaments where players are often very fatigued in the latter stages, that is rarely an issue in tournaments played on grass tennis courts.
Clay Tennis Courts
As noted, clay courts are very different to natural or artificial grass surfaces and not only by the looks but mainly by how the surface affects the game. In contrast to grass, clay courts are used far more often, with plenty of tournaments played on either green clay or red clay courts or artificial clay synthetic surface.
Characteristics Of Clay Courts
Regardless of which type of clay courts are used, the characteristics stay the same, affecting both the player and ball movement. Most notably, the ball bounces higher and moves slower, resulting in fewer aces, but also longer games.
Therefore clay courts favour players with good stamina, who like to play on the baseline, and those who don’t make many errors.
Betting On Clay Court Matches/Tournaments
In contrast to other courts, the ball bounce on clay courts is much higher and slower, which gives players more time to reach and return the ball. This mainly favours more defensive players, who don’t make many errors, but also have excellent stamina.
Due to clay courts’ characteristics, analysing past matches between players on hard surface or grass isn’t very helpful. Instead, it’s wiser to focus more on players with great topspin shots and good durability, which are two valuable skills for any match played on a clay court.
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Hard Tennis Courts
We’ve looked at what are the main characteristics of grass and clay court, but there’s one left – hard clay courts. Found all over the globe and used in numerous prominent tournaments, hard courts are unique in a way that they fall somewhere between a grass and clay surface.
Characteristics Of Hard Courts
In many areas, hard surface belongs in the middle ground between grass and clay, offering higher ball bounce than on grass, but lower than on clay. Likewise, the speed on hard courts is slower than on grass, yet still faster than on clay.
When comparing hard courts to two other tennis court surfaces, the only real similarity between a hard tennis court and a clay tennis court is that players can “slide” on both of them. Besides that, the two tennis court surfaces are not alike.
But it’s also important to note that out of the three tennis court surfaces, hard courts have the most variety, mainly due to the sand that is added to the top layer of the hard court. More of it means slower bounce, while fewer sand results in more speed, granted this never goes to any extremes due to the rules set by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
Betting On Hard Court Matches/Tournaments
Since hard courts are considered the middle ground between clay and grass, it’s hard to imagine one player being good on hard courts but struggling on the other two surfaces. Typically the best players on hard surface courts also excel in one of the other two surfaces.
But there’s also a difference between outdoor and indoor tennis courts.
Indoor tennis courts with their removable court covering, are used mainly in colder months, and while the materials used are the same, there are other factors to keep in mind. In indoor matches, the weather has zero effect on the surface, meaning there is no way for the court to get wet or extremely hot, and there is no wind either.
So in some ways, outdoor courts, in contrast to indoor courts, tend to produce more volatile results as there are many factors that can affect the games.
Besides having to consider whether the game is played outdoor or indoors, it’s also important to analyse the hard court and figure out whether it will have higher bounces and a slower game or be more on the fast side. But the general rule is that well-rounded players will do well on hard courts.
Which Is The Best Tennis Court Surface To Bet On?
You can see significant differences comparing any tennis match played on different court surfaces, but there is no one best court surface to bet on. All court surfaces offer different challenges to the players, and some deal with them better than others – the trick is to recognise which player will do well on any given surface.
Even within each surface, there are differences – you have artificial and natural grass, which behaves differently; indoor and outdoor hard matches which differ due to the effects of weather; and even different types of clay.
Regardless, from a betting perspective, it doesn’t matter too much whether the next tournament is played on green clay courts or outside when it’s 40°C. As long as you understand the differences, know where to find accurate data, and have access to the right tennis betting tools, the type of court doesn’t really matter.
What Type of Court Is The Australian Open Played on?
The first Grand Slam of the season, the Australian Open was originally played on outdoor grass courts but transitioned to outdoor hard courts in 1988.
What Type of Court is French Open Played on?
The French Open (also known as Roland-Garros) was originally played on outdoor sand courts (1891-1907) but moved to outdoor clay courts in 1908.
What Type of Court is Wimbledon Played on?
The Wimbledon Championships is the oldest Grand Slam tennis tournament in the world and the only major tennis event played on outdoor grass courts.
What Type of Court is US Open Played on?
Throughout its history, the US Open has been played on all three types of tennis surfaces. Originally, the US Open was played on outdoor grass courts (1881-1974), before moving to outdoor clay for two years (1975-1977), and since 1978, it’s been played on outdoor hard courts.
What are the four types of tennis courts?
The main three types of tennis courts are hard, grass, and clay, but there have been other types of surfaces used throughout history. The most notable include sand and carpet courts, which are no longer in use.