The UK’s premier artificial grass manufacturer

Everything you need to know about ITF tennis court testing

By admin on February 26, 2018

If you’ve recently invested in a new artificial grass tennis court, or are thinking of doing so, it might just be worth considering how you go about making sure the court will facilitate high performance. After all, you’ll want to make sure your court’s playing characteristics are guaranteed for every training session or match.

If you’re unsure where to start, it’s worth bearing in mind the guidance for court testing put in place by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

Why does the ITF recommend tennis court testing?

The variety of surfaces tennis can be played on can vary significantly – perhaps more so than any other sport, in fact. Because the characteristics of each surface will vary, so too will the style of play on each one. As the centre of excellence for all tennis science research, the ITF recommends testing to establish an acceptable minimum quality standard and enable like-for-like courts to be compared. While testing isn’t mandatory for every tennis court, it is required for those looking to receive ITF recognition.

Which court tests are there?

With so much to take into account, the ITF lists five different court tests which can be used to determine every performative aspect of a given playing surface, from artificial grass tennis courts, to clay courts, and everything in between. While the following may not explain how every test result is calculated in full, it will at least give you a valuable understanding of what the ITF looks to measure.

Court pace testing: The ITF court pace rating is effectively a score which determines where your tennis court surface sits on a spectrum from slow to fast. The ITF Court Pace Rating (CPR) results from a ball being projected onto the surface from a specified speed and angle, before a CPR is calculated using a combination of 11 different metrics.

Ball rebound: This relatively basic form of testing does what it says on the tin. A ball is dropped from a known height five times and the rebound height measured. By comparing the bounce of the ball on the test surface to a reference surface (such as polished granite), a Relative Percentage Rebound (RPR) can be calculated.

Evenness: One of the biggest risks to any court are imperfections that cause the ball bounce to be inconsistent or for water to collect and increase the injury risk. Using a straight edge, a wedge, and supports, any ripples or crinkles in the surface can be measured accurately, and corrected if possible. The evenness test value effectively records the number of deviations outside the recommended limits for the surface type.

Slope and Planarity: We all know that a tennis court should be a flat surface, but often, the surface may be deliberately on a slight slope (from side-to-side) for drainage purposes. Using a distance-measuring device, such as a laser meter or steel tape, and a surveyor’s level, height differences at multiple locations on the courts are recorded, to check that the differences fall within the ITF’s acceptable limits for both the slope and planarity of the surface.

Dimensions: This is another relatively simple procedure, whereby distance-measuring equipment is used to check that the distances between the markings on the court are as they should be. The ITF does prescribe a tolerance level for each distance, just to ensure court dimensions don’t always have to be exact to the millimetre.

Where should the tests take place?

Understandably, the ITF makes it clear that testing in-situ is preferred, although testing in a laboratory might be more practical in some cases. When it comes to testing the pace of the court, the test method remains the same for both laboratory testing and on-site testing.

The on-site testing checklist

With a number of possible tests to be carried out, the following checklist should act as an overview of those factors you need to check and record to ensure the conditions for testing are also suitable.

For laboratory testing: While the test methods in a laboratory may remain the same, it is important to note that the surface being tested must be conditioned at the test temperature (23 ± 2°C) for at least three hours. 

Which tennis balls should be used for testing?

The ITF makes it clear that a high specification ball is needed for court testing to ensure the ball itself doesn’t have too much of an effect on the surface.

If you’re unsure as to what constitutes a high specification ball, take a look at the ITF’s ball specification for surface testing.

What information should a test report contain?

As explained in the ITF’s own overview of tennis court testing, the test report for any given surface should contain the following details:

While it’s certainly important that you understand what the ITF recommends testing, this isn’t necessarily a job you’ll be expected to do yourself. By speaking to an accredited sports testing institute, you can let them do all the hard work for you – ultimately leaving you and your players to enjoy every serve, return, and rally.

How can we help?

TigerTurf manufactures and installs high quality products for a range of sports, leisure and landscape applications.

We are committed to providing expert knowledge and advice on synthetic turf products and systems, along with exceptional customer service before, during and after your purchase.