With an estimated *US$30bn (£19.6bn) having been invested in tennis court construction worldwide, it is understandable that investors and players are keen to know the quality of construction and, increasingly, how fast or slow a court plays.
In response to this need, the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) science and technical department has established ITF Recognition to provide end-users with an independent assessment of the quality of their court, and offers contractors an opportunity to demonstrate the calibre of their products and installation skills.
WHAT IS ITF RECOGNITION?
ITF Recognition is a test-based programme. To receive One-Star Recognition, the court’s key installation properties must meet ITF recommendations.
Testing begins with a visual inspection to identify any cracks or gaps in the surface and ensure a uniform appearance. Next, an evenness test measures the size of any bumps or dips in the surface with the use of a straight edge, and the slope and planarity of the court are established with a laser level. Finally, the position of the court markings and net are checked to ensure they are within tolerance.
Two-Star Recognition requires the court pace rating (CPR) to be compared with the ITF-classified value for the surface product, in addition to the One-Star tests described above.
The pace is quantified by firing a ball at the court and recording its speed before and after the bounce. Rougher surfaces, which generate more friction between the ball and the court, reduce the speed of the ball parallel to the ground making a court ‘slower’. Surfaces that have a higher bounce also appear slower because players have more time to reach the ball.
There are currently more than 200 surface products classified by the ITF. Surfaces are classified into one of five categories: slow, medium-slow, medium, medium-fast and fast, and listed on the ITF website: www.itftennis.com/technical/equipment/courts/courtlist.asp
WHO CAN APPLY FOR ITF RECOGNITION?
ITF Recognition is targeted at venues where the standard of play is high and the quality of the court is therefore most important. These include the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas venues as well as national tennis centres. To date, One-Star ITF Recognition has been issued to the centre court at the La Caja Magica (Magic Box) stadium in Madrid (home of the Madrid Masters tennis tournament) and two indoor courts at the UK’s Lawn Tennis Association’s National Tennis Centre in Roehampton.
Two-Star ITF Recognition has been awarded to all nine match courts installed by Spade Oak at the Eton Manor site in the Olympic Park, and four courts at the Tennis Park club in Moscow, installed by Concept 90.
An application for ITF Recognition can be submitted by any party associated with the tennis facility, for example the owner, the organiser of a tournament held at that facility, or the supplier or installer of the court.
One-Star tests are carried out by an ITF-approved test organisation, such as a surveying company, or an ITF-accredited laboratory. Two-Star tests are conducted by an ITF-accredited laboratory, which are listed on the ITF website: www.itftennis.com/technical/research/recognition/labs.asp
The ITF charges a US$500 (£391) administration fee to add a facility (any number of courts at the same location) that meets the relevant specifications to the official ITF Recognition list. The cost of testing is determined by the laboratory and is available on application.
FACILITIES GUIDE AND DIRECTORY
The ITF has established a working group of facilities experts from major tennis-playing nations to design and develop an international Facilities Guide, which represents ‘best practice’ from around the world. It’s a simple reference for those wanting to build a tennis court and offers information about layout design and choosing and maintaining surfaces: www.itftennis.com/technical/facilities
The Suppliers’ Directory allows users to search for tennis facility products and services and identify ITF-Recognised suppliers: http://tds.itftennis.com
For more information, please email [email protected] or visit the ITF website: www.itftennis.com
* US$30bn (£18.9bn) is a ballpark figure produced from an estimate of 750,000 courts worldwide at an average cost of US$40,000 (£25,000) per court. The number of courts is based on a survey of the ITF member nations in 2004/2005.
Jamie Capel-Davies is science and technical manager at the ITF