We've discussed court speed many times on the blog so I thought it would be interesting publish this year's Hawkeye CPI data which compares the speeds from all Masters 1000's in 2017 and gives a like for like comparison from the 2016 season. Most of the numbers come from screenshots I've managed to grab when watching TennisTV, screenshots others have grabbed and tweeted and this chart posted by TennisTV commentator Nick Lester.
Unfortunately, I don't have the data for the Grand Slams in 2016 to compare but as you can see only one court was faster in 2017 than it was in 2016 – Monte Carlo. Although I think we have to assume this year's Australian Open was faster than 2016 too but I don't have the data.
Court Speed Index for 2017 (Main Show Court Average)
|Tournament||CPI 2016||CPI 2017||Year on Year Difference|
So are the courts still getting slower?
Well, they certainly are based on 12 months data but we need to look over a longer period to really know. Fortunately, I do have the historic numbers for some specific tournaments but not all. Sadly we'll never have the data for pre 2012 when there were some big changes to the speeds but nonetheless you can see the numbers for the last 5 years of Miami (except 2012 which is unvailable), the BNP Paribas Masters and the World Tour Finals below:
|World Tour Finals London||33.9||32.8||33.6||34||40.6||41.4|
So based on the above the speeds have gone up a notch in recent years across those three events. Paris tries to match court speed in London so they'll likely be similar this year as well. The problem for me is that there are no speed standards to adhere to, tournament directors can play around with it willy-nilly. Ideally, there should be some sort of control in place so that we get a mix of speeds throughout the year across all 4 surfaces as they're all very similar across the season.
Any suggestions on how the ATP should enforce it? Allocate a set court speed between X & Y to each tournament per year that they have to fall within and ensure there's a mixture of speeds across the Calendar?
Problems With This Data
For those eagle-eyed readers you'll notice that in my second table both Miami and Paris have different ratings to the 2016/2017 comparison. E.g. Paris 2016 has a CPI of 38.9, but in the chart above has one of 39.1. The 38.9 comes directly from a TennisTV screenshot taken mid-tournament, and the 39.1 comes from the latest numbers that Nick Lester got directly from Hawkeye during the Paris tournament. The discrepancy is because the speed of a hard court changes over a tournament depending on conditions and the roughness of the surface underfoot (it gets smoother the more it's played on). So the 38.9 number is the average speed at a certain point in the tournament whereas the 39.1 is the average speed once the tournament is done and dusted. Same for Miami.
That is a problem because we'll only know the true average speed once the tournament is finished. That means we'll only get the info midway through the final, or if they mention it at the next Masters 1000 tournament. Otherwise, it's a 12-month wait until the tournament rolls around again and last years court speed is brought up on screen.
The other problem is there's no real archive or source for the data – we are reliant on Hawkeye revealing it, TennisTV publishing it or one of the commentators doing some research and getting the numbers from a Hawkeye operator. And then, of course, a viewer has to screenshot it or make a note of it. Robbie Koenig does seem to be the on the ball at putting these numbers out but he's not commentating on every tournament so there's always going to be holes in the dataset, unfortunately.
Let me know what you guys think in the comments. Should the speed of the courts be regulated?