View Full Version : If grass is the FASTEST surface

Sam L
Jul 29th, 2002, 11:06 AM
... then how come the fastest serves in mens' and womens' tennis are registered on HARDCOURTS? :confused:

I mean Rusedski has the fastest serve and he served that in Indian Wells on hardcourts.

And Venus has the fastest serve in womens' tennis and she served that in Zurich on carpet/hardcourt.

Plus the groundstrokes on hardcourts seem to be struck harder and seem to go faster than on grass.

So why is grass the FASTEST surface? :confused:

Jul 29th, 2002, 11:17 AM
Well, aren't serves clock when the rackets have contacts with the ball???? it is not when the ball touches the surface, so having a high speed serve do not have anything to do where you serve it, clay, grass, hardcourt, carpet, do no matter.

Jul 29th, 2002, 11:24 AM
My uneducated guess is that hardcourt tournaments are usually in hotter places, and the locations of the fastest serves were hit are v hot places... the ball will move faster in the air in hot temperatures. Indoor tournaments are meant to be really hot as well.

Unlike GB where the grass is which is rarely as hot as California or Florida, i'm guessing the ball moves slower.

Sam L
Jul 29th, 2002, 11:25 AM
Well then why is grass the fastest surface? I mean how do you determine fast or slow surfaces then.

I thought the speed is measured at the point when the ball crosses the net? :confused:

Sam L
Jul 29th, 2002, 11:26 AM
I just don't know Sonic! :confused:

Anyone an expert in this? LOL

Jul 29th, 2002, 11:28 AM
i think it is called a fastest surface because the ball bounce really low, and the players needed to go and hit the ball faster than other courts, like clay is being called the slowest because players have more time to hit the ball, because it bounce higher.

I hope you understand where i am going, if not maybe the others could help.

Jul 29th, 2002, 11:37 AM
Yeah I agree with rhz, its all about what the ball does after bounce.

Williams Rulez
Jul 29th, 2002, 11:49 AM
On grass, the ball slides through the surface, loses little pace, so it is a fast surface.

MaRKy MaRk
Jul 29th, 2002, 02:26 PM
Yeah on grass, the ball skids and doesn't bounce as high, so the ball comes really fast at you.

And, yeah, your right... the speed of a serve is measured as it crosses the net, so the surface has no bearing on the speed. But the temperature does make a difference...the hotter, the faster...

Jul 29th, 2002, 04:13 PM
Sam, grass is catalogued as the fastest surface due to many reasons. Mainly because the ball almost does not bounce, this means that it's harder to reach it. Points tend to be very fast and players know that if they hit the ball very strong it may be enough to end the point.
The low bouncing of the ball causes it to accelerate most of the time. Specially in sliced and plain shots. A sliced backhand won't be as effective as in a grass cout than a clay court. This is because in clay the ball bounces higher, so player has got more time to reach it.

Now if we're talking about serve as rhz said, it does not depend on the surface. Besides if you chech statistics, a lot of really fast serves are also done in grass, only a few mph less. So there isn't a big difference of speed of the serves between a grass and a hard court.
Maybe the factor of the temperature was the one that marked the difference.

Hope you can get some answers from there


Brian Stewart
Jul 29th, 2002, 05:51 PM
The speed of the serve is measured at the point of initial contact. If it were measured when it crossed the net, you'd rarely have a serve exceed 100 MPH. And the serve loses fuly half of it's initial speed by the time it reaches the opposing baseline. (Slightly more until it reaches the returner.) That's why the readings on serves and groundstrokes vary so widely. The most commonly used groundstroke measuring devices clock the average strokes of their measured group (almost exclusively top 50 ATP pros, with emphasis on top 10) in the 45-50 MPH range. It doesn't look very impressive when compared to a "140 MPH" serve, but if you consider that said serve is traveling less than 70 MPH when it reaches the returner, it lines up. (Much like "140 MPH" badminton shots are only actually traveling ~40 MPH when they cross the net.)

Getting back to why the majority of the faster serves might be registered on hard courts, the characteristics of the surface ome into play. The lower friction of grass rewards slice. The higher bounce of clay rewards topspin. Thus, those particular serves would be very effective on those surfaces. And spun serves read slower than flat ones.

The heat consideration is an interesting one. In addition to the air temperature, hard courts yield reflected heat as well. This could add a bit more zip. (And also possibly have an effect on radar guns.)

Looking at the current player guide, it lists the top 46 fastest servers from 2001. the list breaks down this way: 13 on grass, 4 on clay, 29 on hardcourts. You'll notice there are no indoor events listed. This is primarily because the list runs through September 16th, and thus skips the fall indoor season.

Out of the rest, the vast majority of the readings are on hardcourts. However, hardcourts comprise ~70% of all tournaments, particularly at the Tier II+ level. (None of the listed serves is from below a Tier II.) There are only 4 grass court events total, and 2 T2+, making grass less than 1/15th of total tournaments. Yet it accounts for more than 1/4th of the fastest readings. Going further, 4 of the top 5, and 7 of the top 9 were on grass.

If anyone has a similar list from the ATP, I'd be curious how theirs broke down by surfaces.

Any physicists around to further the discussion? :)

Jul 29th, 2002, 06:10 PM
very nice and informative analysis brian, by the way what is the player guide???

Sam L
Jul 30th, 2002, 10:34 AM
Thanks everyone especially Brian and joaco, your posts answered a lot of questions for me :)

I guess the biggest mistake I made was that fastest serves do not really matter which surface they are on.

But the fastest serves registered breakdown doesn't surprise me at all. I've always thought the hardcourts always register some of the fastest serves.

It is also interesting what you say about how long the hardcourt season is. The grasscourt season is 4 weeks, most top players may only play Wimbledon and that decreases their chances of registering big serves in such a short period of time.

Brian Stewart
Jul 30th, 2002, 06:18 PM
Oliver, the player guide I refered to is the 2002 WTA Player Guide. It has a ton of information on the players, including the aforementioned chart of fastest serves. There's player bios for the top 150+ (and top doubles players), singles and doubles draws from the 2001 slams, plus singles results from r16 to finals for every slam in the Open Era, a big section with all of the singles and doubles finals from tour events since 1971, bios of past slam champions of the open era, and other miscellaneous info. It's a fascinating book.

Jul 30th, 2002, 08:45 PM
how can you get a player guide???Can you buy one??

Jul 30th, 2002, 10:44 PM
I get mine on the net


has some half way down the page, and the atp one at the top.

the wta one is cheaper than the atp one. interesting.

Brian Stewart
Aug 1st, 2002, 12:21 AM
You can also order it from the WTA. It's $20 for most states in the US. (A couple charge sales tax.)