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Tennis Court Surfacing Options: Hard or soft?

Whether your preference is tennis, basketball, or another court sport, one of the most important factors influencing your game is the type of surface you play on. The characteristics of the court surface not only affect how fast the ball bounces, but also contribute to your comfort and ease of movement.

Munson Inc.
Munson Inc.

The International Tennis Federation has tested the typical ball speed for various court surfaces, and classifies them as slow, medium, or fast. Generally, a hard concrete surface—with no surfacing system applied—provides a fast speed of play. But if that's not your preference or you want a more resilient surface to reduce the impact on your joints, a proliferation of acrylic color coatings and cushioning systems are on the market that allow you to adapt the court surface to your style of play.

Acrylic color coatings are a combination of acrylic latex resins, pigments, and silica sand (for texture). They protect the court from the elements, enhance its appearance, and improve foot traction and consistency in ball bounce. They also make it possible to tailor the speed of play to your preferences by adjusting the amount, type, and size of sand used in the coating. For a standard concrete tennis court, the cost to install an acrylic color coating runs about $6,000, according to Kolkmann. To improve bonding of the coating, the concrete surface should have a broom finish (a lightly textured profile obtained by pushing a broom over freshly placed concrete).

Cushioned surfacing systems consist of one or more layers of cushioning material (usually rubber or plastic fillers) that result in a resilient surface with good traction and ball response. These systems are popular for both tennis and basketball courts because they allow for longer playing times by absorbing impact and reducing muscle fatigue. Modular tile systems are the newest cushioning option on the market and offer the benefits of easy snap-together installation, long service life, and minimal maintenance. These systems feature interlocking, 12-inch-square tiles made of high-impact polypropylene. The tiles rest slightly above the base surface to allow for better drainage and eliminate puddling. The downside of this cushioned comfort is the cost, which can run as high as high as $3 per square foot installed (or over $21,000 for a 60x120-foot tennis court).

ITF provides a list of many of the court surfacing products available (categorized by the rate of ball speed they provide) along with links to the websites of suppliers.

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