ATP Masters 1000Tennis News

Masters 1000 Court Speed in 2018

Over the years I've done a number of posts about court speed, the first in 2012 which looked at the ITF court pace ratings. These ratings were based on tests carried out with a sestee often in a controlled environment so didn't really give a true indication of the speed at specific tournaments.

More recently the team at Hawkeye who are on site at all the main ATP events produced a Court Pace Index. CPI shows the true speed of the courts as it's measured during real matches on the main court over the course of the tournament to produce an average over 7 days.

This is now the de facto way to see court speed and it's interesting to compare the speeds at Masters 1000 tournaments over the season and also see how they may have changed year on year.

For most of the Masters 1000 tournaments so far in 2018, I hadn't seen any of the numbers published and it looked like Tennis TV had decided not to share them this season. However, during Shanghai, they finally put out the data for all tournaments this season. You can see that data below:

Court Pace Index 2018: Main Court Averages

Court Speed 2018

How do the speeds compare to the 2017 season?

Tournament CPI 2017 CPI 2018 Year on Year Difference
Indian Wells 27.4 27.9 +0.5
Miami 30.3 30.4 +0.1
Monte Carlo 24.9 22.1 -2.8
Madrid 20.9 21.6 +0.7
Rome 22 18.9 -3.1
Toronto* 36.3 28.8 -7.5
Cincinnati 33.6 31.6 -2
Shanghai 42.9 39.9 -3
Paris 37.5 34.6 -2.9
London 41.4 40.3 -1.1

*The Rogers Cup is played at alternate venues each year, 2017 was in Montreal and 2018 in Toronto so the speeds aren't a true comparison or change as conditions differ due to their geography.

So as you can see the speeds are at a fairly similar level to last year. The biggest changes were in Shanghai and Rome which were both slower compared to 2017. How much of a change does a 42.9 to 39.9 mean in real-world play?  I'm not really sure.

Any questions about the above let me know in the comments. I'm no expert on court speed but I do see people confusing CPR with CPI  in similar posts to mine. CPR is court pace rating – a figure determined by the ITF in showing the speed of surfaces in their approved product lists. That number is geared towards people who are laying tennis courts so they have an idea of the speed ‘out of the box' should they choose DecoTurf, Plexipave etc.

CPI is completely independent of CPR and calculated using hawkeye data.

Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer - I'll pretty much try and watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or tweeting about tennis I play regularly myself and use this blog to share my thoughts on Fed and tennis in general.

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47 Comments

    1. Interesting post. Now possible taking this into experience and predictions? – Finals seem fast. And Fed has had great success with it? Except when he break his back with old friends/rivals rowing. I’m looking forward to comments taking slow- or fastness into account. Cheers!

    2. Well they’re rated as fast compared to the other courts on tour, on last year’s data anyway.

      The problem is that there is no data from previous years – 9,10,11,12,13,14 and 15 as CPI was never published. So we have no idea how it compares now, to then. I would assume slower.

    3. My mind is boggling at WTF being rated medium-fast! Puts paid to what people were saying about them being the same as Bercy, doesn’t it?

  1. No surprise Rafa won Toronto this year looking at that court speed haha. Would love to see the speed of the Aussie in comparison to what it was pre 2017. Such a shame for tennis as a whole that there aren’t many truly fast courts at all as I’ve always thought that fast courts create the most entertaining tennis

  2. How are those courts compare to AO?
    Despite the faster court in Shanghai, pitty that Fed couldn’t really profit from it much 🙁 Because of the night match, the heavy ball or simply his level of play?

    1. I don’t have the speeds for AO this year, it was 42 in 2017.

      Balls and conditions prob a factor in Shanghai. But his level/movement too. He seemed to start quickly in all his matches and fire plenty winners, then run out of gas a bit and grind it out.

  3. This shows just how slow the courts are. You expect the clay courts to be slow, but something is out of whack when several hard courts are slow or medium-slow. No wonder the game seems too one-dimensional now, with little serve and volley.

  4. The figures are interesting but perhaps the most reliable indicator of how a court is playing is the perception of the players. It appears the shift toward “slower” surfaces occurred early in the last decade. Slower (or the perception of it) also goes hand in hand with a higher bounce, that gives players more time, and has likely enabled to trend to taller players with bigger serves, who can both deal better with a higher rather than lower bounce and can hit through the court on their serves. It has also brought more claycourters into the general mix. None of this is to the advantage of a player of Roger’s style.

    1. Yes. What a pity. Shame on preventing our most crowd attracting – and entertaining and artistic player ever to have more possible success. Still he does quite well, the old genius. BTW – could that have prevented another wonderful player, Monfils? And in some measure Kei, Schwartzmann, Dominic, Micha, Goffin? All very talented and nice to watch, not least vs Roger.

      1. Not really, if anything those guys are all performing better on slower surfaces as that’s what they have grown up with.

        Schwartzman – going to struggle due to height regardless of court speed. Clay courter.
        Zverev prob the main one who would have better results if surfaces were quicker
        Goffin – similar to Schwartzman. But does take it earlier so quick indoor hard court does suit his game a bit.

        Thiem is a slow court specialist. If anything he’s profited from it most as look at his results on quicker surfaces, he’s like a fish up a tree when the ball flies.

      2. Thanks for wisdom Jonathan. But you don’t mention Monfils and Kei, how they perform slow/fast. And I forgot Dustin Brown from Germany who once beat Nadal in wimbledon in perfect flying style. He actually gave me a little worry, and I have looked for him ever since. – ?

    2. It has certainly slowed, mid 200’s onwards there’s been a progression to surface homgenisation and slower speeds.

      Every player’s perception is different though, and how many that are still on the tour experienced truly fast courts? Not many, so who can really say with any authority what is fast or slow. Fed one of the few guys who played tournaments on a carpet.

      You see conflicting info from players all the time at event though, some say it’s quick, other’s say it’s slow. So I prefer CPI over anecdotal evidence.

      1. Sometimes we are missing in the mix how the power of rackets progressed during the same period. The game goes faster now than 20 years ago.

      2. I agree with you if you replace te word rackets with string.

        The fundamental tech / composition of a racquet has barely changed in the last 30 years though. String is the real change.

      3. Sorry, I meant strings. I think when we talk about pace on the sport it is a combination of several factors such us the court speed, the string technology, balls etc.

        If you don’t adjust the court speed the sport would be like serve shootout

      4. The similarity of court speeds today means the game is played much the same way on all surfaces. Tennis is now predominantly a mixture of either bashing or grinding – and all from the baseline. The endless defence of a player like Djokovic is a product of the mixture of modern racquets and strings, and extreme athleticism (likely aided by ped’s). Taken back to the mid-nineties it is unlikely he would have beaten Sampras at Wimbledon on its faster, lower-bouncing grass. There was greater variety of court speeds before the 2000’s. To those of us who saw the game in the years before then there was also more variety in playing styles. It didn’t make the sport any less interesting – the reverse, in fact.

      5. I think the anecdotal evidence is only useful over the shorter period of a player’s career – and their memory of how surfaces have played over that span. There is also the additional useful perception that we might have as followers and observers of the game, noting how it is played on various surfaces (although technology and fitness will also play a part in this). I suggest that the hard data of measurable changes (which unfortunately we don’t have over a longer period) is likely to confirm what the players tell us and what we may able to notice for ourselves. I doubt that the data would contradict the anecdotal evidence. Haven’t we all noted the slowing of most court surfaces?

      6. “Taken back to the mid-nineties it is unlikely he would have beaten Sampras at Wimbledon on its faster, lower-bouncing grass”. Nonsense, you can’t compare eras like that when they are that different. Which equipment they would use on that imaginary match? Maybe Roger or Rafa wouldn’t be top 10 if they played in the 70’s with wooden rackets, who knows.

      7. It is because the eras are so different that you can compare them. It is obvious to anyone who saw tennis at Wimbledon in the nineties (I don’t include you, Pablo, in that category) that the game was vastly different from how it is played today and that the backcourt game of a player like Djokovic wouldn’t have cut it against a great serve/volleyer and grass specialist like Sampras. (Look at how a journeyman with a good serve like Mueller has been able to beat Nadal even on the modern slower surface. Mueller is no Sampras). McEnroe – who knows something about grass – has said Sampras had the ability to close down anyone on a fast surface – whatever era they played in. But fast surfaces – like Sampras’s game – are now a thing of the past.

      8. Agassi played well on grass and Nole is considerably better than him in pretty much all aspects of the game.
        Sampras is probably the GOAT on that fast grass court but that does not mean he could not have be beaten by a good version of Nole.

      9. It is important to remember that only the main courts were measured.
        Maybe the players are sometimes right and a specific court is faster here and there, although in the big picture it is likely that the smaller courts are getting slower as well.

      10. Agassi couldn’t get close to Sampras on ’90’s grass, and he admitted it. So which “version” of Djokovic – there are so many! – would have stood a chance? Pre-2011 – no chance. Never made a Wimbledon final. 2011-15 – about the same chance as Agassi. 2016-17 – wouldn’t have met Sampras because the Serb couldn’t make a final of any kind. 2018 – facing Anderson on today’s higher-bouncing slower grass isn’t comparable to facing peak-Sampras circa 1999 at Wimbledon. Djokovic still likely loses. In sum, his game is made for the modern slower courts; not the greater variety of the past, and especially the faster low-bouncing grass-courts of SW19. Roger, on the other hand, is such a player of that kind of versatility. That is why he is still so much more interesting to watch than the ped-infused metronomes he has routinely faced in his later career.

  5. What a shame that the courts have slowed so much. Bigger shame that they are all so similar. A real talent when a player can adapt from court surface to surface and difference in speed.
    Am I delusional or is the nextgen trying to serve and volley more and coming to the net more? Maybe I am. Although some of their games are more interesting. Watching Roger while growing up?

    1. I think you are right. It is the impact on wanting to beat Roger. I fear that when he’s not there it will go back to bad mediocre ways with grinding and baseline bores and skyscrape power serves.

  6. Shanghai, Cincinnati, Miami (let’s add Wimbledon, even not having CPI for slams) – the four fastest courts. And the four tournaments, where Federer could not win, while winning only the medium fast/slow court Masters in Indian Wells.
    I think, you forgot some important factor – how slow/fast is the specific player. In case of Fed, it’s obvious, he is slower (I mean both: movement and shots) 2018 than he was last year. Age. Less training. Opponents’s game changing. Hitting regularly 130-160 km from the baseline is no more an exception. Many can reach these measures.
    Thiem WAS clay specialist, but his game changed a lot this year – I don’t care so much about his achievements (but USO QF vs. Nadal and first Indoors title are also some signs of changes), but about performance. Who watches his matches, will know what I’m speaking about. Shorter backswing. Playing closer to BL. Serving flat and lots of aces. Playing more serve&volley. Aggressive return from inside the BL (a kind of SABR – Federer is not playing now so much but many others do).
    Djokovic is no more defensive player – going fast from defense to offense. Long rallies no more his specialty.
    Not only court speeds change – many other factors are changing too.
    Not sure, if you want to read my post. Sorry for having disturbed your discussion (if Jon will publish my post).

  7. The court speeds are not the only factor of course, the humidity and ball seem to play a big role. According to that chart, Cinncy is not much faster than Miami but. It’s far faster because Miami is far more humid and the ball travels slower. In fact from what I have seen Indian Wells is faster than Miami since it’s in the desert.
    From what I have watched, Dubai is the fastest, then Cinncy, then Shanghai. I really liked those Tennis Masters Cup years in Shanghai, that was good tennis. Watch highlights of Nalbandian-Federer, it’s pure shotmaking class from both. Federer dispatched Nadal in 2 sets I think twice there. Pity that the O2 in London is more like Miami in terms of speed (or maybe it’s the camera angle?).
    Anyway unfortunately the stupid schedule they put Federer in – 4 matches in a row – did him in. I hate the fact he plays the Wednesday night in these Masters’ events and not Tuesday (like Djokovic). That gives a whole extra day of rest . There wasn’t a lot of bounce in Federer’s step vs Coric. Yet the match vs Nishikori was high quality.
    Looking forward to the Basel draw…is Djokovic playing?

    1. Court Pace Index is a calculation from Hawkeye, so all the conditions such as humidity and the ball are factored into the metric as it comes from real tournament play. CPR is purely the surface, but there are no CPR numbers in my post.

      From what I’ve read – a ball travels faster in more humid air, physics gurus say so. But Miami is faster than IW for sure. I never used to think it was but feedback from the players also seems to suggest Miami is quicker, Federer said that himself in press…

      1. The draw is still not out yet, maybe Fed in a hell draw that everybody’s got freak out and redoing it? 😆 Yes Sue, I’m going but only the weekend so fingers crossed!

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