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Explained: The different types of Tennis court surfaces

One of the beautiful elements of tennis is that it can be played on a variety of surfaces.

Each surface consists of different characteristics, which will favour differing playing styles and abilities.

There are three different court surfaces used in professional tennis and we've given a breakdown of each.

Why Tennis is played on different surfaces

The court surface affects the bounce and travel of a ball, which can benefit and hinder certain individual style.

Having a variety of surfaces increases the prospects of players with traits that differ to those that may reign supreme on one surface; those with a strong serve and explosive forehand are more likely to do well on a hard court than a clay court.

It makes tennis more unpredictable and as a result, the sport is more appealing to viewers.

Surfaces used in Tennis


The most common surface in professional tennis, most of today’s top players possess qualities that are well suited to the hard court.

As mentioned above, hard court surfaces tend to benefit those with a fast serve; it's slower than grass courts but the bounce is a lot higher due to the solidity.

It is the court surface of the Australian Open and the US Open, which are the first and final Grand Slams in a tennis season. The US Open is played on an acrylic hard court, while the Australian Open is played on a synthetic surface.

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  • Favours most styles of play
  • A predictable bounce which leads to longer rallies
  • Utilised in both outdoor and indoor venues


  • Different types of hard courts produce varying degree of bounce
  • Players are more susceptible to injury on hard courts and it can be physically harsh on bodies


The oldest and most prestigious Tennis tournament in the world, Wimbledon, has been played on the All England Club’s grass tennis courts since 1877.

Grass is the fastest court surface of the three and because of that, players with excellent serve and volley skills tend to prosper.

The bounce on grass court surfaces makes coming to the net a viable strategy, as it removes the uncertainty of the bounce.

More information on All England Lawn Tennis Club


  • Softer surface so less impact on player joints
  • Cooler in warm weather
  • Rewards players with strong net skills
  • Fast-playing surface which can make it entertaining to spectators


  • High maintenance, large amount of time and cost to keep it at the highest quality
  • Can be ‘overplayed’ and wears quicker than other surfaces
  • Low bounce encourages players to adopt a low stance which can lead to soreness


Clay is most commonly associated with the courts of Roland Garros in Paris, which hosts the French Open, and is very popular across Europe and South America.

Giving off a red hue look, clay courts are made up of stones, gravel, limestone and crushed brick.

It is the slowest court of the three, with the surface nullifying the big-hitters and favours the more stylish individuals.

Rafael Nadal, who is hailed as the King of Clay having won the French Open a record 14 times, has prospered with his behind-the-baseline style, heavy topspin groundstrokes and deft drop shots.

Rafael Nadal: The King of Clay


  • Ball bounces longer and higher, lending to longer rallies
  • Encourages tactical play
  • A softer and more forgiving surface on players bodies


  • Like grass, clay courts also require a great degree of maintenance and are consistently brushed and watered during tournaments
  • While a softer surface, players tend to slide on clay, which can lead to muscle and tendon injuries

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