Tennis is a remarkably popular sport and no matter where you live, you are likely to have a tennis court nearby.
The ITF GLOBAL TENNIS REPORT 2019, the largest study of its kind about the popularity of tennis, claims that there are over 87 million tennis players globally, playing on over 489,000 courts. And those are only the official courts – there are many more private tennis courts out there that didn’t make the count.
With Tennis courts to be found everywhere from Grand Central Station in New York City, to cruise ships, to the highest court in the world atop the Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai, we set out to answer the question -- How much room does a tennis court actually need?
Key Tennis Court Dimensions
Although recreational tennis courts can vary in size, the ITF (International Tennis Federation) has established very specific guidelines to govern the size and dimensions of a tournament or competition court.
The following numbers reflect ITF specifications:
How Many Square Feet Is a Tennis Court?
The ideal playing area on a tennis court is 261 square meters or 2808 square feet.
How Long Is a Tennis Court?
Each regulation tennis court has a playing surface that is 78 ft long. In metric terms, that equates to 23.77 m.
How Wide Is a Tennis Court?
Width-wise, a regulation tennis court is 27 ft (8.23 m) to 36 ft (10.97 m). These numbers are for singles and Doubles play, respectively.
Singles Match Court Size
For a singles match, players use a smaller inside area of the marked playing surface. The singles boundaries use the full 78 m of the tennis court’s overall length but are limited to the marked width of 27 ft for play.
Doubles Match Court Size
In a doubles match, the length of the legal playing surface remains the same as for the singles court, but the playable court width extends to the outer doubles marker lines, which are 36 feet wide.
How Tall is a Tennis Net?
Because Singles and Doubles tennis matches use different width courts, they each use a different net and different posts, or “sticks” to suspend it. The ITF has set the post heights at 3 ft 6 in (1.07 m), and the net at 3 ft (0.91 m) high in the center. The net supports are located 3 ft (0.91 meters) outside the doubles court marker line on each side. For a singles net, they are 3 ft (0.91 m) outside the singles court boundary.
How Big Is the Overall Playing Area of a Tennis Court?
Beyond the actual marker boundaries of the tennis court, some extra room, or run-off space is necessary, so players don’t injure themselves by running into fences, and, for competition, to provide space for the umpires and judges.
There are two different tennis court types, and each requires a different amount of space. These are average courts like you would build at home or find at the local rec center, or competitive courts, that you would find at a tennis club or a professional tournament venue.
What Is the Recommended Overall Playing Area of A Tennis Court
Let’s start with the overall playing space needed for an average court. Generally speaking, an average court needs to be 120 ft (36.57 m) long and 60 ft (18.3m) wide. This allows for 42 ft (12.8 m) behind the baselines and 16.5 ft (5 m) on either side of the doubles lines to allow players to move freely.
A competitive tennis court needs to be slightly larger with an extra 10 ft (3 m) on either side, so, around 130 ft (39.6 m) by 70 ft (21.3 m). The run-off areas for competitive courts may vary slightly by the venue.
How Much Overhead Space for Indoor Courts Do You Need?
While most tennis courts are outdoors, tennis clubs often build indoor courts to allow year-round play. The main concern with an indoor court is the amount of headroom, or overhead space required to make sure the ceiling doesn’t interfere with play.
The rule of thumb is that an indoor tennis court needs a minimum of 35 feet from the ground to the court ceiling at the centerline. A sloped roof is acceptable as long as it provides at least 20 ft of clearance above the baselines.
How Big Should an Indoor Tennis Court Be?
Overall, indoor tennis courts don’t require any more space than outdoor courts for play, unless the building needs to make room for spectators or facilities.
What Is the Best Tennis Court Size for Your Home?
Although you can build your home court to any specification you want, 120ft by 60 ft is the recommended size for a full-sized residential tennis court. This provides enough surrounding buffer to ensure that fences or uneven surfaces don’t hinder your movement as you play.
Types of Tennis Courts
If you plan to build your own court, the first thing you need to consider is what type of tennis court will best suit your needs. There are many different types of tennis court surfaces, each with different advantages and disadvantages and characteristics of play, construction, and maintenance.
Given that tennis was originally called lawn tennis, the grass court is the most traditional playing surface, and the most well-known example of a grass court is Wimbledon. Issues like drainage and maintaining a healthy living surface make grass courts fairly unsuited to a home build. Grass courts require time and money to maintain, and they can only be used for a part of the year.
Grass courts play more quickly than clay courts, and they are considered less demanding on a player’s body than hard courts. Tennis ball machines are a great for practicing but you probably don't want to place one on a grass court because it will damage the grass overtime.
Clay courts have a distinctive red color and are most often associated with the French Open venue Roland Garros. They are the most difficult to maintain as they require constant grooming and must be very well-drained. Clay courts also dry very slowly after a rain and are messy and unplayable until they do.
A clay tennis court plays more slowly than a well-cropped grass or hard court and favors players with excellent spin and ball control. Clay courts are said to be very tiring to play on.
Hard Courts, or Sport Courts, as they are often called in the US, are the easiest to construct and maintain and the most commonly built for personal use. If you decide to build a hard court, there are two main base surfaces you can use -- concrete and asphalt.
Once you have decided on a base material, you can customize the way it plays by selecting a surface coat that has the play characteristics you prefer. Generally speaking, a hard court’s play speed sits between that of grass or clay.
Hard courts are the easiest to construct and maintain, and the quickest to dry after a rain. They can also be played year-round, making them the most popular for home play.
Tournament class examples of hard courts include the Australian Open and the US Open.
Finally, the least popular of tennis court surfaces are carpet courts. Largely unavailable in the US, carpet courts use a combination of artificial turf and a layer of sand. Carpet courts play very quickly and are easy to maintain, but they are unpredictable and have been banned from all major tournament play. Carpet courts are only built in places where extreme cold is likely to damage other surfaces.
How Does a Tennis Court Affect Playing Style?
Faster grass and hard courts are suited to one style of tennis, while clay courts favor a different style of play.
Slow courts, like clay, make the ball bounce high and slow. Points usually play out more slowly, and matches last longer. Slow courts are for you if you like to play a baseline game, waiting away from the net for the ball to come to you.
Fast courts, like grass and some hard courts, have a fast, low bounce and favor aggressive mobile, mid-court players with a strong serve. If you like to mix it up behind the net, you will prefer a faster court.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much money does it cost to build a tennis court?
Asking how much money it costs to build a tennis court is like asking, “how long is a piece of string?” There are so many different factors that can go into building your own tennis court that it is an impossible question to answer definitively.
A ballpark answer would put the average cost of a tennis court build at $25,000 to $50,000. That said, if you want to go high-end, $100,000 to $200,000 is not inconceivable.
How much space do you need to build a tennis court?
A full-size tennis court needs a minimum of 120 x 60 feet; however, nothing is stopping you from building a smaller court if it suits your needs. Perfecttennis.com suggests for a recreational home court, you could get away with 114 ft by 56 and still fit a full-size court.
Are all the courts the same?
Except for the ITF’s strict guidelines regulating their size and markings, not all tennis courts are created equally. Different playing surfaces, construction, and even climate make each tennis court unique.
Do professionals play on larger courts?
Full-size tennis courts for professional play are all the same size, although the run-off or surrounding areas can differ.
What are the best tennis court types?
There is no best tennis court type, each playing surface or type of court is suited to a different style of play. However, in the US, hard courts are the most popular for their consistency and ease of maintenance. Clay courts are found mainly in France and Spain, and England hosts the majority of grass courts.
What is the least popular surface for tennis courts?
Carpet is by far the least popular surface for a tennis court. Carpet is mostly unavailable in the US and is used only in colder climates in Europe.