A Game of surfaces

Tennis is played on a variety of surfaces and each surface has its own characteristics which affect the playing style of the game. There are four main types of courts depending on the materials used for the court surface: clay courts, hard courts, grass courts and carpet courts.

A hard surface can differ based on the senthetic material used to make them, like Deco Turf (US Open) and Rebound Ace (Australian Open). The surface affects game by affecting how ball speed and bounce.

Mapping surfaces

What is it?

Out of the 65 major tennis tournaments played every year, 23 is played in clay, 7 in grass and 35 in hard. Most of clay and grass court tournament takes place in Europe, whereas hard court tournaments are spread across the world.

why the difference?

Although grass courts are more traditional than other types of tennis courts, maintenance costs of grass courts are higher than those of hard courts and clay courts. Hard courts are most low maintenance of the three and hence most common across the world.

Acing It

What is it?

In tennis, an ace is a legal serve that is not touched by the receiver, winning the point. In professional tennis, aces are generally seen on a player's first serve, where the server can strike the ball with maximum force and take more chances with ball placement, such as the far corners of the service box. This makes returning the shot almost impossible and hence wins the server a point.

Why the difference?

Wimbledon, played on grass courts, supports fast game. The ball preserves most of its speed on bounce and hence it gives very less reaction time to the opposing player to react. It is completely opposite of clay court used in French open which slows down the ball after bounce. Therefore we observe that average number of aces scored in a match is highest in Wimbledon and least in French Open. The number of Aces scored on different types of hard courts fall in between because their surface properties falls somewhere in between

Rally and Return

What is it?

A rally in tennis is a sequence of shots within a point. A rally starts with the serve and the return of the serve, followed by a sequence of continuous shots until the point is won by either player or team.

Why the difference?

The slow speed after ball bounce in clay court (French open) gives more chance to players to return the shot. The fast speed of ball in grass (Wimbledon) makes it difficult to continue rally for very long. This can be seen from the graphs below.

Holding the Serve

What is it?

Holding serve is when a player wins the game in which he is serving. The serve is reversed in each subsequent game. A serve can be successful the first time or if it is not, the player gets to try second serve. The graph below shows pints won in first and second serves.

Why the difference?

It is easier to win point on serve in grass as it allows more aces and serve and volley style of play where the server can approach the net after serving and hit a volley and convert it into a point. Therefore we see more serve points in Wimbledon (grass) and least in French Open (clay).

Net Attack

What is it?

In tennis a net approach is when a player moves closer to net to return a shot. This technique is used in serve and volley style of play in which the server moves close to the net after serving, ready to play an attacking volley off the return. A high number of net approaches are converted into points won.

Why the difference?

The slowing of court surfaces and deflation of balls, promoting longer rallies for the enjoyment of spectators, has put a damper on the serve and volley style. In general, the slower the surface, lesser the benefit of approaching net. Therefore net approaches and net points are least in Clay (French Open) and most in grass (Wimbledon).

Bringing It All Together

The parallel coordinate below presents a comprehensive view of all the aspects that are affected by surface of the court. The lines are grouped by surface type. It is interesting to see how these aspects differ for same set of players playing on different surfaces.



This website is part of final project for Information Visualization, a course at the UC Berkeley School of Information. Team: Tennis strategies (Proxima DasMohapatra, Kinshuk, Puneet Sharma)

The website was designed using Cool Kitten, a framework by Jalxob.
Vizuallizations are created using Tableau and D3.js.
Data from Jeff Sackmann tennis repository.
Tennis Player Silhouettes vector by Vector Open Stock

Find the code for the project here.