General Tennis

Tennis Court Surfaces and Court Speeds

Tennis Court surfaces and their speeds is a topic that often confuses people, there's a ton of conflicting information and a lot of speculation about whether a surface is playing fast or slow. But is there a way to end all that and simple say for example Indian Wells is played on X and it plays at X speed. In this post I'm going to try and find out.

Why am I writing this? Well for 2 reasons really, my last post asked whether or not Djokovic was unbeatable on Plexicushion, which is the surface used at the Australian Open. A couple of people mentioned that he's beatable on it because that's the surface used at the World Tour Finals, it's not actually so I thought it'd be good to clear up which surface is used at each tournament. And secondly, because the slowing of the courts is something that seems to be happening year on year so I want to know if court pace rating is a relevant measurement.

I'm going to look at all the surfaces in use at Grand Slam and Masters 1000 and 500 level, their official speed ratings designated by the ITF and the characteristics that each court has so there's no confusion about which surfaces are which and how quickly or slowly they should play according to the ITF. Remember that little bit.

What will I cover?

  • The types of court surfaces
  • How the ITF measures the speed of them
  • The speed ratings of all Masters 1000, 500 and Grand Slam tennis courts
  • Why I think the system is flawed (as I found out through doing the research)
  • How I'd solve the court speed problem

What types of Court Surfaces are used across the world?

Tennis is probably one of the few games in the world that's played on a variety of surfaces be it grass, clay or hard courts each of those surfaces has smaller subsets made up from different materials like concrete, artificial grass and acrylic. All court surfaces go through a rigorous testing procedure before they can be approved as an official surface by the ITF, the tests take into consideration friction, energy restitution, topography and consistency.

The types of Tennis Court officially in use across the world are:

  • Acrylic
  • Artificial Clay
  • Artificial Grass
  • Asphalt
  • Carpet
  • Clay
  • Concrete
  • Grass
  • Other e.g. tiles, wood, canvas and modular systems.

Amongst those cateogies, there are 3-5 surfaces listed by the ITF who have been granted ITF status as an approved supplier.

How is the Speed of a Tennis Court Measured?

The most interesting thing about tennis courts are the speed of them and the ITF measure that with a system called Court Pace Rating or CPR for short. As we'll later find out, any court you see on TV or that's used for an ATP or Grand Slam tournament has it's own unique Court Pace Rating.

The Court Pace Rating System measures the effect the surface has on the tennis ball which again takes into account friction, which basically looks at how much the balls velocity changes after it has hit the surface and also vertical restitution which factors in the time between successive bounces.

The CPR test needs various apparatus to be carried out including something to fire out a tennis ball at a set speed such as an air cannon and then a piece of equipment known as a Sestée, which you can see in action below.

A Sestée in Action

I won't go into the complexities of how it works, mainly because I don't have a clue 😉 but basically, the Sestée uses laser technology in its two boxes that are able to reconstruct the trajectory of the ball and calculate pace. The ball is released from the cannon at 30m/s and at a 16° angle with no spin being imparted on it.

The Sestée is able to measure the following:

  • Vix = horizontal inbound velocity (m/s)
  • Viy = vertical inbound velocity (m/s)
  • Vfx = horizontal outbound velocity (m/s)
  • Vfy = vertical outbound velocity (m/s)
  • e = coefficient of restitution (COR)
  • μ = coefficient of friction (COF)
  • T = mean ball temperature for test location/sample (°C)
  • c = temperature coefficient (0.003)
  • eT= adjusted COR for temperature T
  • a = pace perception constant (150)
  • b = mean coefficient of restitution for all surface types (0.81)
  • CPR = Court Pace Rating


CPR Equation
CPR Equation (Click to see full size)

Once the pace of the courts have been measured they are placed into categories:

Category Court Pace Rating
Category 1: Slow ≤ 29
Category 2: Medium-slow 30-34
Category 3: Medium 35-39
Category 4: Medium-fast 40-44
Category 5: Fast ≥ 45

If you want to read more about the surfaces and how speed is measured here's the technical centre on the the ITF website.

It's important to note that ITF Classification does not imply any form of ITF approval or endorsement. It's simply a rating system of the various surfaces they have approved as suitable for tennis. No weight is placed on different categories for preferred usage.

What are the Court Speeds for Masters 1000 & 500 tournaments and Grand Slams?

The latest court speeds for 2018 can be found here.

Tennis TV posted this interesting graphic. Please note this is a Court Pace Index and comes directly from Hawkeye data. So it's actually a true representation of the court speed for the speed of the court that year at each tournament. 

CPI is calculated from the following:


  • Where μ is the coefficient of friction
  • e is the coefficient of restitution

Again please remember here CPR = an ITF speed rating given to surfaces. CPI = court speed calculated from Hawkeye data from the main court during a Masters 1000 tournament.

Speeds in 2016

Court Page Average


Speeds for 2017

A new graphic for 2016  and 2017 so far. The Australian Open is not listed here but it was rated at 40.


Court Pace Ratings for Each Surface from the ITF

Masters 1000 Tournaments

Tournament Surface Court Pace Rating
Indian Wells Plexipave IW Category 1: Slow
Miami Masters Laykold Cushion Plus System Category 3: Medium
Monte Carlo Masters Clay Category 1: Slow
Madrid Masters Clay Category 1: Slow
Rome Masters Clay Category 1: Slow
Rogers Cup Pro DecoTurf II Category 4: Medium-Fast
Cincinnati Pro DecoTurf II Category 4: Medium-Fast
Shanghai Masters DecoColor Category 4: Medium-fast
Paris Masters Greenset Grand Prix Category 4: Medium-fast
ATP World Tour Finals Greenset Grand Prix Category 3 – Medium

Grand Slams

Grand Slam Surface Court Pace Rating
Australian Open Plexicushion Prestige Category 4 – Medium-Fast
French Open Clay Category 1 – Slow
Wimbledon Grass Category 3 – Medium
US Open Pro Decoturf II Category 4 – Medium-Fast

Masters 500 Tournaments

Tournament Surface Court Pace Rating
Rotterdam Greenset Grand Prix Category 3 – Medium
Rio Open Clay Category 1 – Slow
Dubai DecoTurf Category 3 – Medium
Acapulco Clay Category 1 – Slow
Barcelona Clay Category 1 – Slow
Halle Grass Unknown
Queens Grass Unknown
Hamburg Clay Category 1 – Slow
Washington DecoColor Category 4: Medium-fast
Beijing DecoTurf Category 3 – Medium
Tokyo DecoTurf Category 3 – Medium
Basel Greenset Grand Prix Category 3 – Medium
Vienna Rebound Ace Synpave Category 2 – Medium-Slow
Valencia Clay Category 1 – Slow

I've included the World Tour Finals in the Masters 1000 table, it uses Greenset which is also used in Basel and Paris. To complete the data it'd be nice to have the actual Court Pace Rating figure for each tournament, i.e Wimbledon CPR 38. But I've not been able to find those and they're not available 🙁

Why I think Court Pace Rating is Flawed

It's taken me a good few hours to compile all the information above and in that time I've realised that Court Pace Rating is flawed and that's down to four reasons:

  1. There's too much conflicting information from suppliers, tournaments and organisers. I don't think any of them know the true speed of the courts and have just put together a calculation/equation for the fun of it.
  2. The ITF isn't endorsing courts or recommending their usage they are just putting together a guide to aid people when purchasing a surface. So there's no rule to say for example the US Open must choose a Category 5 surface.
  3. Just because a court surface falls into a certain category on the day it's tested, doesn't mean the company who makes it can't change the manufacturing process to make it slower or faster at the discretion of the tournament it's being provided for.
  4. The balls make a ton of difference because some fly quicker, some fluff up more easily, some are heavier – there are too many variables. There are currently around 200 approved tennis balls on the ITF list.

1. Conflicting Information

When putting this post together I've read and found a lot of conflicting information that makes me think Court Pace Rating is nothing more than just the dream of someone behind a desk who thought it'd be a good idea to categorise court surfaces to help buyers but I don't think it really works.

Take for example the Indian Wells tournament, according to the ITF CPR ratings, Plexipave IW is a category 1 – slow surface but on the Plexipave website, the actual manufacturer, it states that Plexipave is a category 1 – slow surface. So which one is it? I don't think anyone really knows.

2. It's not an endorsement, just an aid

If you read the full details of court speed on the ITF website you'll see the quote that says:

A surface product included on the list of ITF Classified surfaces is classified purely on the basis of its Court Pace Rating. ITF Classification does not imply any form of ITF approval or endorsement

If there's no endorsement and it's just an aid then what is the point of it? I personally think there are too many manufacturers listed anyway.

3. It all boils down to the manufacturing process

Court Speed Rating only takes into account the speed measurement on a given day, there's no governing body or rulings that say the product has to be manufactured at that speed. And I'm not sure all the testing is done in situ. That almost renders them pointless in my eyes.

Let's say that I run the peRFect Masters 1000 tournament in England, I want to use Plexipave IW which is classed by the ITF as Slow, but I want it to be fast, not slow. I simply get the manufacturer to change the composition of the product i.e. make the finisher smoother, use more Rounded/Sub Angular particles so there's less friction and hey presto I have a court that plays like a Category 5. But wait, isn't Plexipave Category 1 according to the ITF? Let's not even go into the type of balls that I'm going to use, and how easily they fluff up because that affects things too!

Court Speed to me seems to be solely at the discretion of the tournament owners, the ATP and the sponsors, the CPR rating means very little.

That means that traditionally fast tournaments get slowed down even though they are using the same surface as always because they change the composition of it. If the owners want a Nadal/Djokovic final they make the surface rough and sticky so the ball bounces high and slows down. There's nothing to stop them doing it either which I find bizarre.

Take for example the US Open, they use Pro Decoturf II which is a category 4 -medium-fast surface, but is it? I'm not sure, this year it was widely reported they used more sand in the top coat to get more friction and slow the ball down. They also made Arthur Ashe slower than Armstrong, intentionally. So the CPR rating is simply a rating that provides no real value.

My advice – judge with what you see with your eyes, not what the ITF, ATP or tournaments tell you about the court surface. It's all smoke and mirrors.

4. The balls make all the difference

From what I can gather, the court pace tests aren't carried out with the balls in use at the tournament where the surface may be used. They're just tested with whatever balls are available that are on the ITF approved list. Like I said above, there are around 200 types of ball on the list, that can make all the difference.

Remember at the French Open in 2011 where they changed the balls so the flew through the air differently? The court didn't change but it played faster. Another variable and I think thee are too many balls in use, the number of approved balls should be limited.

If you look at Cricket there's only a handful of balls in use across the world and usually, each ball is specific to each country. E.g. in England they use a Dukes or a Readers and in Australia, they use a Kookaburra.

How to Solve the Court Speed Problem

My simple solution is that the speed of the court at any given tournament is predetermined by an outside body and it can't change year on year or at the discretion of the tournament organisers.

So as an example, the US Open has to play at a set speed every year and it can't drop below or exceed an agreed threshold. There'd be no more putting more sand into the DecoTurf mixture to make the surface rougher, it'd be made the exact same each year for all of the courts at Flushing Meadows. And it'd be a fast hard court, as it should be.

By using that approach you'd be able to have a wide variety of court speeds on tour. With the right rules in place and planning, it'd be possible to have courts ranging from one end of the spectrum to the other throughout the year. Allowing players to be tested on a variety of surfaces of which some play super quick, some play in-between, some bounce high, some bounce low and some play slowly. The key is variety and I think you will only get that with some kind of regulation in place.

Not convinced the courts are getting slower?

You're not going to find anything more significant than that. And that's on grass, the supposed fastest surface!


Huge fan of Roger Federer. I 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 Federer and tennis in general.

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  1. Great post and I agree with everything you said. That ITF list is just flawed. It rates Rome as fast yet Paris and Dubai, two of the faster courts on tour as medium-fast and medium. To make it even worse they rate the AO as medium-fast. Are they serious? The AO is almost as slow as the French open, last year Navratilova even commented that it playes like clay. Just ridicilous.

    1. The Rome thing is a mistake on my part! It’s rated as slow, as is all natural clay I believe. Just corrected it now.

      But you’re right, I think the ratings don’t add up to what we see and what the players experience.


      1. Hi Jonathan.

        thank you for the fantastic article.

        The article has all the material to be published as a research article (with li’l more research and refinement)!

        Think about it.


  2. Nice post…, i think Madrid is fast surface not slow one…, Rome is slow not fast…., Nice explanation…, I would love to see more fast courts which would suit serve and volley player like federer & makes tennis will be interesting .., players will be playing for short duration & will be injury free….,

    1. Madrid is probably due to the altitude, not the court. From what I gather it’s same clay as anywhere else like Paris/Rome.

      I’d like to see fast courts and I’d like to see consistency in how quickly or slowly they play. None of this chopping and changing. There should be a mix of speeds at the various tournaments across the world.

      1. I was hoping for answer that I could understand. so the way the ball bounces off the court and the material of the court determines how fast or slow a court plays???? Also want to know why tennis balls are yellow? Can they be another color to make it easier to view on TV?? they hitting that ball so hard sometimes I have trouble seeing it????? Now don’t nobody get smart with this senior citizen who just love to watch tennis and just asking simple questions for my understanding, not trying to start fuss and don’t want no sassy back talk!!!!!! I am not trying to impress nobody and don’t want to engage in a debate!!! thank ya, hear??

      2. Whenever the ball bounces it creates friction. Depending on the surface it will create more or less. That affects the speed of the ball.

        As for tennis balls they used to be white, then they changed to yellow for TV purposes. It’s the best colour I think for seeing on courts other than clay.

  3. I definitely don’t believe that the AO is medium-fast and Wimbledon is medium. Wimbledon is certainly faster. Definitely no surprise that my favourite tournaments are Cincinnati, Dubai, Halle, the WTF, USO, and Paris Masters.

    1. This is why it’s daft. ITF rates Plexicushion Prestige as Medium/Fast but if you look around you can find info that says the Australian Open has a CPR of 34-37 meaning that’s medium too. Too much conflicting information I think. ITF says one thing, manufacturer says an other and then somewhere else gives a different rating. Needs to be more consistent.

  4. Very useful information, Jonathan you make Science of tennis! Congratulations for this excellent research and explanation, I enjoy reading every post! Christmas greetings! 🙂

    1. Thanks Ana. Not sure if I cleared everything up, if anything I’m more confused about court speed than before lol, do ITF ratings mean anything? I’m not sure. It’s just like you can do what you want with the courts if you run the tournament.

  5. Very nice analysis. I like that last part, the speeds at Wimby 2008. A lot of ignorant people think that in 2008, Nadal suddenly became better than Roger and solved him on grass. They have no idea that the surface favored Nadal. And despite that, the match was lost by a couple of key points.

    I hope Roger stays in tennis for a couple of year because I ain’t watching this load of bull once he retires.

    I can’t believe Wimby is considered slower than AO.

    1. First of all, it’s a great post by Jonathan. However, the latter part appears slightly biased towards Fed which is understandable considering he’s a hug Fed fan. Anyway, i think the Wimbledon surface slowing down was done in 2002. That was the 1st time a Wimbledon final was played largely from the baseline (Hewitt vs. Nalbandian), which essentially means all of Roger’s Wimbledon crowns have come on slowed down Wimbledon courts. Secondly, in 2003 the courts were faster than 08 (according to the video), but that is not proof enough to suggest that Roger lost 2008’s final due to speed. An appropriate comparison would be the speeds of 06 and 07 (Roger beat Rafa both times) vs speed of 08 Wimble final. If there’s a marked difference between 06,07, and 08 then the point that Rafa won coz of slow courts could be accepted as a line of argument.Even if the courts slowed down, was it not the same court that Roger kickassed against lesser mortals ?? What about 09 and 12 ??? He still won right? What about beating the hell out of clay court specialists in French open. He only lost to Rafa, but he literally stream rolled past other opponents. It’s not the court that matters buddy, it’s the player who matters. Rafa didnt solve Roger suddenly on Grass. It took him two Wimbledon finals loss. Guess 3 years is not all that sudden !!

      As a side note, Dubai Open is fast hard, and i remember Roger being beaten by Rafa on that surface too back in 06. When Rafa wasnt winning on Grass and Hard, it’s people like you who said he cant win on fast surfaces. When he did win, you blame it on the surface speed. Look champs are champs coz they know how to adapt, change and better themselves. Rafa did that and the results are there to see.

      1. Cheers Pappupa,

        My point wasn’t so much that it was the grass specifically in 2008 that cost Fed the final, there were many factors. But the general slowing of the courts is something that definitely played a part… the video is just a reference to that.


      2. Incorrect, I am a coach and previously 500 ranked player. The balls where initially slowed down in 2002, of which has happened several times since. Not a bad thing as mens tennis became a touch boring to watch. Nice to say the courts do not matter but put a 25y old sampras against a 25y old Murray on a 98 wimbledon surface and balls and your looking at a straight set killing. Of course Fed would have won a lot more, he is a shot maker..
        I took a break from playing between 2000 to 2006 and I and any other comp player will tell you the difference is dramatic to say the least.

      3. Well said!

        The implications that I gathered here was that Fed lost to Rafa in that 2008 Wimbledon final because of the court speed (court being slow). But, why did Fed win in 2006/2007 beating Rafa? And, Fed also won Wimbledon in 2009 beating big serving Roddick. I mean, did they vary the court speed from year to year, from 2006-2009, and 2008 played particularly slow that Rafa could win?
        Do note that in 2007, Rafa almost beat Fed in a five setter.

        You make a good point that the court was already being slowed down since 2002, so this talk as if Fed won Wimbledon on fast grass was simply untrue. Fed lost early when the grass was quicker prior to 2002; his best result was in 2001 when he beat Sampras to reach the QF, but then, he lost to Henman next!

        In fact, I would say that the slowing down of the grass benefited Fed the most, you don’t win 8 Wimbledon when the grass surface doesn’t suit you! I didn’t see Djoko or Murray or Rafa winning 8 Wimbledon!

        If the grsss is still the fast grass of 1990s, I think the big servers would win most of the Wimbledon titles. Fed may win some, not eight, and the trio of Djoko/Murray/Rafa may each win one. They’re too good not to win one. Rafa with his big serve in 2010 might help him to win it.

  6. Wow, you’ve been working too hard instead of having a wild parties? Hope you had a lovely Christmas.
    Thanks for the convincing analysis based on a detailed investigation, well done, Jonathan.
    I agree Kyle, Cinci, Dubai, Paris, etc, I enjoy faster courts/games, even Madrid, too. I want that light green court back to AO, I miss Jesus Fed 2006/2007 on it, not on the current super slow one!
    By the way, how’s the petition for faster courts doing?

    1. Hey,

      I started this one before Christmas, just finished it off yesterday 😉

      Petition has stalled I think, 144 when I last looked. I wonder if they will take notice of that? haha

  7. Thank You Jonathan for this excellent article! I hope you had a great X-mas? I agree with you that money and greed sadly completely dictates how our wonderful sport of tennis is run. It is a reflection of the nastiness of the world we live in where commercialisation is king and where decency, integrity and fair play is shunned. The FAIREST way of resolving this issue is exactly as you put it Jonathan and to have HONEST and consistent court speed ratings applied by the ITF to all tournaments. This would then preserve the integrity of the game and all players could then compare their abilities honestly across all surfaces. And who really knows, but maybe Roger Federer is even greater than any of us could have ever believed and the ITF realized this early on, and in an elaborate and complex conspiracy upon the arrival of Nadal and Djokovic, devised the most cloak and dagger arrangements to have all courts slowed down over time to the point that we have arrived at today. What a sad and disgraceful shame!

    1. Thanks Paul, Christmas same as ever for me but all good to chill out for a few days.

      Agree 100% with you man, everything is far too commercialised. It’s all about which tournaments can make the most money from Sponsors not the ones that provide the best and fairest competition for the players and the fans.

      I quite like your conspiracy theory too! haha.

    2. I agree with your statement 100% Paul. The truth in your statement will hurt the people who know what they have done. This is also why they promote people like Djokovic, Nadal ,Murray more than Roger. They are all greedy and corrupt!!!! But what goes round comes round and it will get each one of them 10 folds.

    3. Sorry, but on every surface will win better player. Simple as that. OK, that will not be ever our guy every time.

  8. Wooooooww Jonathan that was just awesome what an incredible post, thank you very much, of course that by slowing the surfaces defensive players like Nadal, Djocovic and Murray are been benefitt, it is a shame players like Roger has to work harder as he is ofrensive and attacking the lines all the time onnthe search of winners, that is another reason why Roger is the dest player in history. Thank you Jonathan and happy new year!!!

    1. Thanks Luis happy new year to you too man.

      I know exactly what you’re saying, if you play attacking tennis you should be rewarded, not always the case. I don’t mind some courts being slow, it makes it different after all but they shouldn’t all play similar.

  9. To Johnathon, What a fantastic article, i enjoyed reading this and ur other blogs. Like urself i am also a HUGE Roger Federer fan. I watched the 2008 Wimbledon Final and i saw the analysis of the titatium coatin for lines instead of the chalk based that they used. This therefore made a huge difference in RF serves. It slowed down his serve by around 10 mph.So where RF would Ace Nadal,he would be able to return his serve. The grass they used was differnt than the usual it was combination of diff seeds. Although the match was great the usual winners were more harder for RF. This resulted in Nadal winning. I really wanted Fed to win 6 in a row for the open era record. But i think someone in the elite establishment didnt want Fed to win. N E way!! Please keep up the great blogs on Rf Johnathon.All the best 4 the future!!!!

    1. Thanks Serajul.

      Agreed, the courts at Wimbledon have definitely slowed. I guess that video I included is all the proof that’s needed. 10mph difference when it reaches the returner is huge.

      6 in a row would have been awesome. But slam 17 kinda made up for it I guess.


      1. Hi jonathan …. 6 would of been nice. But u know how it is myself and millions wanted him to get the open era record. But 17 GS is still amazing, number 18 then 19 then 20 would be even sweeter!!

    2. Really? Didnt you know Nadal came close to beating Fed too in 2007. Not forgetting Fed also won in 2009 and 2012 when the grass was slow! So, the problem wasn’t the grass but Nadal. Nadal didn’t beat Berdych using topspin but more using his low lying slices. Both Berdych and Tsonga also beat Fed there at Wimbledon without using topspin! Can’t you see, it’s not the topspin, but the players skills that won them their matches on Wimbledon grass against Fed! Topspin doesn’t work well on grass. Don’t expect Nadal’s topspin to kick as high as when it’s on clay! On grass his topspin might just end up in the strike zone of Fed unlike on clay when the ball bounced above or almost above Fed’s shoulder. There’s also a graphic showing how the ball bounced on clay vs on grass, when Nadal played vs Fed. Don’t just simplify every loss of Fed to Nadal because of topspin.

      1. Hi cynthia.. Nadal jus didnt win because of heavy topspin. If u watched the match then u would of seen in the wimbledon analysis and the same u tube post by jonathan, that although Nadal is a great player he only won cos of all court/balls/grass seeds/titanium lines etc. The true wimbledon was
        changed too much. And thats jus not myself sayin this. The legends of tennis were saying the same thing. So if Navratilova/ J Mac / Willanders were saying that wimbledon was slowed down then i think u should watch the BBC analysis or the u tube post given already. This is why Federer lost to clay specialist Nadal. The centre court was drastically changed in favour of Nadals game and tactics. They have done the same with US/ AO open with the hard. No one is saying Nadal only won cos of his huge topspin, they were playing in wimbledon not Roland Garross sothe high topspin argument is non existence on grass!! Sorry!!

      2. Cynthia, are you making this up as you go along?

        Based on your last however many comments you have lead me to believe:

        1.) Grass isn’t is slower, it’s the balls they use.
        2.) Topspin isn’t effective on grass.
        3.) Nadal beat Berdych because of his slice.
        4.) Berdych and Tsonga beat Federer without topspin.
        5.) Rome is a fast clay court.
        6.) Roland Garros needs slowing down.

        I don’t want to sound rude but every single one of those statements isn’t even close to being true.

        Back to the tennis classroom for you I think.

  10. Good Morning Jonathan, Nice post, really interesting! I’ve just put him on my bookmarks. I’ve got only one question to you, based on my perception because I’ve never been in Wimbledon. It is possible that there is a difference of grass between Court 18 as in example, and Central Court? Reviewing the longest match of all time Isner vs Mahut, I’ve got the impression the ball bounced so faster and deeper in Court 18. Please let me know if my impression is wrong. Thank you very much. Greetings from Salta, Argentina.

    1. Hey Diana,

      Hmm good question. I believe they will be the same grass but the speeds could vary for sure. I doubt the outside courts get the same level of care and attention as centre court for example so that’s bound to be a factor. So they may bounce more unevenly or play at a slightly different speed.


  11. Interesting to see the Federer’s service comparison between 2003 and 2008. However, it’s very inconclusive: how does the spin affect the two serves? They are hitting the court at a different angle (though, on an uniform surface without spin, these angles would suggest entirely opposite behaviour). Oh, and I thought someone mentioned balls: are they the same between these? Not to pull anyone’s leg, but perhaps Federer can’t put as much spin on the ball anymore and get a service at the same speed as before. Or maybe he can, and the two samples are simply not representative. Any comparison like this only leads me to have more questions.

    1. Hey Dan,

      But he hit the serves at exactly the same speed. I doubt spin is a factor here. They will have picked two serves that are closely similar as possible. The courts have slowed, that’s the only real explanation.

      Same balls.


      1. Sorry but that really is not the only explanation. If that graphic was in fact showing the mean of many different serves, therefore with a ton of data points then I’d say that you were right, the court has definitely slowed as the statistical weight would rule out other mitigating factors. However, if those really are just two individual serves hit at the same speed then there are myriad other factors which could account for the slower speed off the bounce, for a start they entered at different angles, grass is an organic material and therefore prone to be inconsistent which means one ball could have hit a particular patch which was slightly denser or harder etc… there could be a ton of reasons. You could be right, the court may well have slowed but you cannot say that conclusively based on two individual serves.

      2. Statisitics, statistics, statistics.

        I watched tennis at Wimbledon since the 90’s man, it’s slowed down. I don’t need tons of data points, I see it with my eyes and the players say it too. Ex pro’ s agree – the grass is slower.

        The video of course isn’t trying to pull together tons of data points, it’s purpose is to offer a quick comparison of two nigh on identical serves and how they have slowed down. Same player, same strings, same type of serve. Slower off the court. Pretty obvious the reason why 🙂

      3. Sorry but I have to disagree. Again you might be right but simply because you’ve watched Wimbledon for years (as I have too) doesn’t validate the argument. To use a different example using the ‘two identical serves (though they clearly weren’t given their differing angles), identical strings, same player etc…’ scenario…Say someone hit a serve at say 100mph at an angle of 20 degrees on a hard court that plays at a known speed and the ball bounced off the court at 35mph. Then say they hit another serve of the same speed at almost exactly the same angle 5 minutes later and the ball bounced at 20mph, using your logic, you could say the court has slowed down. And of course being 5 minutes, that’s a ludicrous arguement. There are so many factors, including chance not to mention, which could account for that. Again, I’m not actually saying you’re wrong, you sound like you know a lot more than I do about tennis but I’m simply stating that those two serves on their own shown in that video don’t prove that the court has slowed down

    2. Totally agree, of course just the angle difference will make things different when the angle (of the route of the ball touching the ground) is smaller the friction would be less in the grass so this ball will go faster, thats simple physics.In that you have to add the weather conditions, the spin of the ball and the types of the please be more precise..

  12. I really enjoyed all the content here to understand how the courts are made up and it was interesting to know that there is actually a system to measure the fastness of the courts and ITF is actually using it even if it is allegedly flawed.

    But I stumbled on your final comments where you suggest why Federer lost 2008 wimbledon; And going by your analysis then Federer must have lost in 2007 and 2006 also. Did the surface at Wimbledon change from 2007 to 2008. Lets not get carried away by the video since two serves at similar speeds can undergo completely different trajectories depending upon the angle of the serve, the number of rotations on the ball and also due to various other factors which I believe you know far better than any one else here. And that is precisely the reason why the ITF uses a standard equipment to determine the speeds and not use Federer’s serve as a measuring tool.

    And if we talk about that 2008 wimbledon finals you see federer did not break the serve even once, the match went to fifth set just by the virtue of federer’s serve and his maturity in playing tie breaks in the last three sets. Also Rafa was serving second in the final set and still he was in the only player in that match to have broken the serve of his opponent.

    One more thing to think ; why federer won again in 2009 and in 2012. So was it only Rafa who benefited from changing the courts.

    1. Cheers.

      I think the point was more that the courts at Wimbledon have slowed down in general.

      The 2008 final was just an example of that, I wasn’t suggesting it was the sole reason Federer lost the final just a contributing factor. The courts were the same in 2006 and 2007 too, just Roger played well enough to offset the lack of court speed.

      I understand that video isn’t exactly the fairest of scientific tests either, but the BBC picked two as near identical serves and ran that test. It’s not conclusive, but going with what the ex pro’s say, the existing players and that video, it’s kinda fair to say they have slowed…


  13. I saw this Stakhovsky interview in which he talked about court speeds:

    Q – You’re a prominent opponent of the widespread slowdown of the courts. Who supports you in this matter?

    A – Well, it’s not that I’m looking for support. It’s just that everyone has a view of their own on this issue. I think Federer is also not really happy about the courts slowing down. That is my position, but I did not collect signatures, although I’m sure I would’ve found support from a couple of dozen people for sure. At the time, it was made clear to us that the choice of surface is the prerogative of the tournament organizers. Tennis players can bang their heads against the wall, but it won’t help. They will choose the court surface for their tournament, even more precisely, in most cases for the player that they’re buying for their tournament. For example, if they buy Nadal – you can expect the surface to be very slow. And so on.

    Q- You want to say that the ATP has nothing to do with it?

    A – No, it’s all from the organizers. They wanted more spectacular tennis with long rallies – that’s what happened.


    1. Seriously, I don’t understand how they think this would be good for the sport. I guess they are all about money…

  14. Interesting, in 2013 Rafa owned all the American season: Roger’s cup, Cincinnati and US Open. All of them labeled as 5: Very fast, according to this article.

    So all this story about Rafa being competitive only on slow surfaces is pure bulls*it.

    Federer fans need to wake up and stop believing in their deluded theories.

    1. I’m sorry, and I know this comment was made a year ago, but you clearly didn’t read the article at all. The whole point of the articles was that the ITF Court Pace Ratings can be entirely wrong. This means that if a Masters 1000 tourney uses a surface which is categorized as fast, it does not necessarily mean that the surface plays like a category 5 because of other alternative adjustments which can be made to the surface. It would be much better to judge by watching and listening to other professionals’ inputs on the surface speed of any particular court.

      Also, Johnathan never said that Nadal is only competitive on slow surfaces. Rather, in general, it seems that slower surfaces benefit the return game. That is not necessarily wrong, but it can be inferred that strong baseline returners would find slower courts to their advantage. But in no way would anyone in their right mind ever suggest that Nadal is not a competitive player on all surfaces. Please use reading comprehension skills instead of assuming outrageous claims are being made when they are clearly not.

  15. The ratings are clearly 100% wrong. When the ratings tell you that Aus open is faster than Dubai and even wimbledon we have to pretty much say ratings are a complete nonsense. The aus open might as well shift to a clay tournament because it is a joke for a hard court. The us open is still good i feel but we need a grandslam with the same speed as in dubai to chnage things a bit. Wimbledon is still fast but too much bounce than it used to be which stops players from volleying. they should reduce the bounce a bit at wimbledon.Maybe the french can be slowed more. Ofcourse I do understand that courts have to be slowed a bit because no one wants to see a serve and volley slug fest which becomes boring and tall guys dominate. But they just took things a bit too far with Aus open and also by increasing the bounce at wimbledon

    1. Indeed it’s all about variety I think, we need a mix not just the same on all surfaces. There is no adapting to different playing surfaces now, they all play the same.

  16. The ITF classification for decoturf and pro decoturf has expired last year, and I just saw that in the new publication this year, there is no sort of decoturf in category 5.

    1. Hey Phil,

      Cool I haven’t had a look at courtspeed in a while so they have probably changed. I may redo the post if I have chance. Unless you want to nominate yourself to do the 2014 version? 😀


      1. No thanks ^^

        I’m sure you would do much better than me. And my english isn’t peRFect (I’m french).
        But I was sure this information would interest you.

        The ITF doesn’t update their classifictaion every year for every surfaces, they give their label for 3 years, last time they did measurements for decoturf and pro decoturf was at the beginning of 2010. The last label expired on April, 28 2013, the new one will end on May, 16 2016.

        But as you said and as it’s said by the ITF, a tournament has no obligation to follow this classification.

  17. Great post jonathan…i just want to ask please give your list of court ratings & not the itf’s…it would be great help
    lol my english not so good…i hope you understand

    1. Hey man,

      Thanks, I may do an updated version this year.

      My court ratings will be tricky but for starters Dubai – fast, Wimbledon – medium / fast as indicators.


  18. Hi Jonathan

    I had a look on the atp website you can see the draw of all past tournament, and on top of the draw you can see the surface used.

    Look what I find about Cincinnati :

    2012 :
    2013 :
    2014 :

    2012 : decoturf II
    2013 : decoturf
    2014 : decoturf II

    this confirmes that the surface has been slow down last year.

  19. I think you should include Queen’s and Halle on the Masters 500 list. Starting this year, they’ll get upgraded from ATP250 to Masters 500.

  20. Concerning the Wimbledon court the information provided is false. The Wimbledon grass changed in 2001. They used a different type of grass (actually different analogies of the same 2 types of grass), the intention being not to make the court slower, but to make grass tougher, because it worn out very easily after the first week of play. The side effect was to make it slower. Federer did not loose the 2008 final because of that, as the article claims. The grass changed in 2001 and Federer has won all his titles on this slower court.

  21. please, I want to know. Does your post mean that there is no difference between US open and AU open ?
    Are they the same in speed and bounce ? Do you think that the balls only make the difference between two surfaces ? Why Novac could won 6 grands in AU open but he couldn’t in US ? Do you think the reason is The balls only ?

    1. Hi,

      No, it doesn’t mean that. The “Category 4 – Medium-Fast” only relates to the category of the surface itself in the ITF handboook. The actual venue, conditions etc. aren’t factored or how it has been tailored for the requirements of the tournament. So based on that categorisation you can’t really get a true understanding of speed.

      However this year Tennis TV have started publishing Court Pace Index data which I have put at the top of this post for Masters 1000’s. That takes into account everything as it comes from Hawkeye. We also got it for the AO too this year and Rod Laver Arena court pace index was 45.9. So when USO rolls around we’ll hopefully be able to compare.

      USO and Aus Open both use Wilson Balls, I am not sure how different they will be.

      I think the reason Djoker has done so well in Aus is he liked the conditions there, just seems to suit his game. The USO is very different – difference surface, very different conditions and later in the year.

  22. Thanks Jonathan for making a technical subject a bit clearer. You state that the Australian Open is rated at 40 and that Rod Laver Arena court pace index was 45.9. I’ve been through the links you provided for the ITF CPR technical site but cannot find anywhere this information or the ratings for the 4 slams (only that Plexicusion is rated as medium:( If you could direct me where I can find this info I’d be grateful:)

    1. Thanks.

      CPI is just hawkeye data – that’s the best one to use I think as it’s actually from tournament play over a number of days.

      RE CPR – not sure where it is, the article needs some updates really as a lot of the links are dead or ITF have removed. I plan to do one, it is just fitting it in.

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