Clay Tennis Courts vs. Grass Tennis Courts

There are two types of tennis courts, the clay tennis courts and the grass tennis courts. Clay tennis courts, ironically, are not made of actual clay but are usually made of stone, brick or crushed shale mixed with rubber and plastics. They are generally built on concrete foundations so they are said to be more consistent and smooth.

Aside from the obvious material difference, clay courts differ greatly from grass courts in terms of effects on ball movement, construction and maintenance cost, and popularity among tennis enthusiasts.

Ball Movement

It is believed that sliding in red clay is easier than sliding in green (Har-Tru) clay, and that red clay gives a more constant bounce to the ball than green clay does. Meanwhile, a grass court tends to be more slippery and does not aid the player in controlling a slide at all. Hence, the ball is more out of control – sliding and bouncing lower- causing the player to exert more effort in reaching the ball faster.

Clay courts are better at slowing down the ball and producing a higher bounce than grass courts. Considering the material from which clay tennis courts are made, the surface creates more friction and more grab on a tennis ball. Hence, the ball’s horizontal path is pushed by the friction, its movement slowed and its bounce made higher. However, for big servers, clay tennis courts take away a big advantage. Clay courts are also favored heavily by baseline players.

Grass grown in grass tennis courts should be healthy since the bounce of the ball depends greatly on the height of the grass. Also, the bounce of the tennis ball is affected by the mowing schedule of the grass and the number of plays in has endured prior to the current game. This is because grass is easily deformable compared to clay, which is packed and firm.

Construction and Maintenance

Clay courts are also cheaper in terms of construction costs. In terms of long term costs, it is cheaper to lay down clay and preserve it than to landscape and maintain grass courts. Clay tennis courts only need to be rolled over to maintain flatness. Also, after every game, they are simply swept and watered a little. Following this, water consumption of clay courts is less than those of grass tennis courts that need a large helping of water because grass courts need to be soaked with water before they are drained.

Popularity

Grass courts used to be heavily favored by most tennis players and tennis competition organizers. However, recently, clay courts are slowly becoming the location of choice since high maintenance costs for grass courts are higher. Grass courts are becoming rare and less popular nowadays. Because unlike clay courts that can be left untouched for longer periods of time, grass courts need to be watered and mowed constantly, and drained after every rain so the soil won’t become loose.