You may have noticed tennis courts have been springing up in a host of different colours in recent years. A lot of people take the colour for granted – but have you ever wondered why all of the different options are available?
The most commonly-used colours for the playing surface are red and green, including different shades of green. The colour of the court can depend on where it is located, with a red court often found in leisure centres and schools. Red is also used for multi-games courts that include tennis – often with a dark green surround.
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The classic dark green court, with a lighter green surround, is a traditional colour combination frequently found at tennis clubs and on home courts. A dark green court with a red surround has also grown more popular over the past decade for tennis clubs and private courts.
Blue tennis courts
When it comes to professional courts, blue is the favoured colour today. It has been this way since the US Open introduced blue courts in 2005, followed by the Australian Open in 2008. All over the world, other tennis courts followed the trend.
The reason behind this was the belief that the colour blue provided exactly the right contrast with the tennis ball, making it easier to see for the players and spectators alike, including viewers watching on television. Open championships are trendsetters for hard courts worldwide, so the other courts simply followed their lead.
Changing the colours of tennis courts has been a modern trend relating to hard courts; as traditional, natural surfaces such as grass and clay have pretty much got to be a distinct colour. On rare occasions in the past, there have been exceptions, such as when the Madrid Open used blue clay. However, usually, you can guarantee the clay courts will be red and the grass courts green.
Tennis court designers stuck with a shade of green when hard courts were first introduced, so they looked similar to grass. Until the 21st century, this was the norm. The court surround was usually a different shade of green, or red, for a complete contrast.
Tournament organisers were initially reluctant to take risks with colours, preferring the tried and trusted. However, since tennis balls are a fluorescent yellow-green hue, some organisers believed a different surface colour would make it easier to see. This is when blue and sometimes even purple courts became an option.
The organisers realised every sport must be spectator-friendly in order to grow. With the tennis ball often travelling at more than 100mph, it can sometimes be hard for spectators to follow its path. Innovative tournament organisers decided to experiment with different colours to see if this would make things easier.
Blue and purple are directly opposite the colour of the ball on the spectrum. They enable people to see the ball most clearly. Combined with better television quality, this enables viewers to see the ball perfectly. Just as the colour of the ball has evolved from traditional white to neon yellow, so has the surface of the tournament court.
Research into “perfect” colour
When the US Open made the change back in 2005, a lot of thought and research went into it. Officials spent a lot of time deciding on the best colour for the court surface and it was never a case of randomly looking at a colour chart and picking one that looked good.
California Sports Services carried out research into the perfect colour that would fall into the blue and purple spectrum to provide the best contrast with the neon tennis ball. The colour also had to be aesthetically pleasing in person and on TV.
The eventual shade they chose was called Pantone Blue 2965U. It was picked after tests were run to choose the optimum colour – officially known as US Open Blue ever since. While this was chosen for the court, the US Open officials wanted a contrasting colour for outside the court area to provide an even clearer visual.
Again, it was important to choose the right colour. The experts at CSS chose Pantone 357U (a darker shade of green), which then became known as US Open Green. The US Open is the only Grand Slam championship to have the two-tone courts, giving the tournament a distinctive look.
Creating a brand
Prior to the US Open in August, other tournaments in the run-up to the main event are officially a part of the US Open series. They too use the same colour for the courts, turning it into a brand for the event. This enables viewers to instantly recognise that each tournament is part of the same series.
Thanks to the popularity and success of the blue hard courts at professional level, green and red courts have become more a colour for amateur facilities in recent times.
The Australian Open’s courts are a lighter shade of blue than their American counterparts. It also fills the entire surface, without the green contrast. This colour has taken off largely across Australia and Asia. The tennis courts at the Olympics are also blue, although a different shade from the Open courts.
Of course, Wimbledon’s courts at the All England Club will probably always be green grass. Lawn tennis at the annual tournament began there in July 1877 and there are no known plans to try any different surfaces or colours.
As more facilities upgrade their hard courts, blue seems to be emerging as the most popular surface colour.
Dragon Courts offers a court designer service, which allows you to choose colours for your tennis court – you can use our swatches to change the inner or outer colours. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01572 770404 for advice and information.