From the English version called lawn tennis, its popularity grew rapidly into the game of tennis played around the world today. Other than the idea of using a racket and a ball, very little else resembles the real tennis that became popular during the 1500’s in Europe. Today, we have a well defined set of parameters for the layout of the court.
A regulation tennis court will have dimensions of 27′ X 78′ for singles matches and 36′ X 78′ for doubles matches. There are specifications for the clear space around the court, of 21′ on the ends, 12′ on the sides and up to 36′ above the court, to provide room for play. Allowances are made for some variation in the clear spaces but the court size cannot deviate by more than 1/4”.
Orientation of a tennis court is an important consideration for several reasons. The rising and setting sun, shadows from nearby buildings, prevailing wind patterns and any potential obstructions can impact play and need to be addressed to ensure the optimum layout. The general rule is a north-south orientation with some small deviation based on local conditions.
The best surface color is a balance between what may be, conflicting interests. A dark surface for the court with a slightly lighter color for the surrounding area works well for seeing the ball. Darker surfaces absorb more heat which can be more debilitating for the players. A dark surface indoors will require more lighting to create proper visibility.
The tennis net gets a lot of attention due to the concern about how high it should be on the ends versus the middle. The posts for the net are to placed 3′ outside the lines of play and the finished height of the net at the posts, including the posts, should be 42”. The strap securing the net in the middle should be 36” in height.
Tennis courts may look flat but some slope is required to accommodate proper drainage. The amount of slope will depend on the type of surface. Clay surfaces have a minimum slope of 1” per 30 lineal feet and a maximum slope of 1” per 24 lineal feet. Although, the numbers will differ somewhat by type of surface, the idea is to have a consistent slope that drains any water away from the court. These are tight tolerances requiring a professional to accomplish a proper finish. As a comparison, the average concrete deck slopes from 3 to 6 inches in 24 lineal feet.
For planning purposes, the rule of thumb is one tennis court will usually support a population of around 10,000 people. Whether it is one court or an entire complex, the best approach to creating a tournament worthy court, is to consult an expert.