Whether you're shopping for your personal backyard court (dreaming...) or picking out your tennis spot for the summer, it's good to know if you're playing on the type of court that suits you best. Read along to find out the pros, cons, and makeup of the three most common tennis courts today and what sneakers you should take to the baseline.
Notable Tournaments: Wimbledon, 2012 Olympics
Favored by: John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Martina Navratilova
Ideal sneaker: Nike Grass Court Zoom Vapor 9
Grass courts are the oldest and fastest type of courts commonly used today. Grown on hard packed soil, well-kept grass is more slippery and less firm than other surfaces. This supplies a low bounce which results in a game that places higher importance on the serve. In the past ten years, efforts at Wimbledon have been made to make the soil denser to supply a higher bounce and slower game.
This slippery surface calls for a tennis shoes with supreme traction underfoot. Equipped with small nubs or pimples on the outsole, these will be sure to keep you in place. Check with your local courts though, not all grass courts allow the nubby outsoles as they quickly wear down courts.
For you if... You have a confident serve and prefer a fast game.
Notable Tournaments: U.S. Open, Australian Open,
Favored by: Novak Djokovic
Ideal sneaker: adidas Barricade, Babolat Men's Propulse 3
The most common surface in the game makes for a medium to fast set and a high bounce, allowing opportunities to put all types of spin on the ball. The two types of hard court are acrylic and synthetic, the difference being the level of hardness because of the amount of sand in the top layer of paints. Less sand means faster plays and more topspin, creating a surface that's perfect for tricky moves on the court.
The most important thing to look for in a pair of hard court shoes is durability. Even if you aren't a pro sliding and streaking your way the ball, you'll burn through shoes super fast if you don't pick up a shoe with a reinforced toe-cap and durable outsole.
Notable Tournaments: French Open
Favored by: Rafael Nadal, Chris Evert, Justine Henin
Ideal sneaker: Nike Air Max Courtballistec 4.3
If you've been watching the French Open this week, you've seen plenty of this brick red surface. The red clay courts are made up of crushed shale, stone, or brick, where as the green Har-Tru "American" clay is made up of crushed basalt and slightly harder and faster. This surface slows down the ball and supplies a higher bounce compared to hard and grass courts. Blue clay was introduced in the 2012 Madrid Masters, as the director claimed the cool shade improved visibility for the players and television, the jury's still out on this though, as Novak Djokovic has refused to play on the controversial surface.
Look for shoes with a non-marking sole (usually white) so you don't leave behind colorful streaks on the court. You'll also notice tennis shoes in general have a rounder sole so they don't gouge the clay surface too much. Clay specific shoes also have a tight tread pattern so that even clogged soles will grip the court. Yonex and Nike are just two of the many companies that supply clay specific shoes.
The cheapest to construct, clay is also the most expensive (and laborious for its users) to maintain.
For you if... You like to play it slow and close to the baseline.