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The Biggest Events in the Summer Tennis Calendar

The tennis season is about to get exciting! Check out the hottest events of the summer and what surfaces the players will be battling on.

Tennis is a (mostly) year round sport, but the schedule really picks up in the summer months. Luckily, events usually take place around the same time every year. With three Grand Slams on different surfaces coming up in the next few months, let’s take a look at the summer’s hottest tennis events, and which surface they will be played on.

Professional tennis is played on three different surfaces throughout the year: hard court, clay and grass. The season starts in January on hard court, transitions to clay in the spring, then to grass to start the summer, before ending back on hard court at the end of the year. Each of the three surfaces provides players with different challenges and many adapt to each surface differently.

Hard Court

Often referred to as “neutral” playing fields, hard courts are probably the most universally recognized tennis surfaces. They are usually made of concrete, and if you’ve ever gone to play tennis at the local park (especially in North America) you have probably played on a hard court.

Two of the tennis season’s four Grand Slams are played on hard court, the Australian Open and the US Open. Each surface has a different “speed,” meaning the ball travels faster or slower because of the conditions the surface provides. Hard courts are the medium playing field – not too fast but not too slow.

Due to the hard concrete, balls often bounce a lot more on hard court than other surfaces, but because of the smooth surface, the bounce is more predictable. Concrete also absorbs a lot of heat, which can make the balls even bouncier. This makes the potential for longer rallies greater.

Hard court tennis is often favored by players who like to stick to the baseline (the back line of the tennis court). This is because the high bounce causes the ball to go further, so players can hang back more.

Clay Court

Clay courts are often seen in a lot of places in Europe, and the French Open (Roland Garros) is played on this surface. This is a very unique surface that some players thrive in and some despise. The clay allows players to slide quite a lot as well, which makes clay tennis pretty exciting to watch. By the end of a great match players can be covered in the trademark red clay dust after a gritty battle.

Due to the thick clay and the layer of dust that then covers the top of the surface, clay courts are the slowest of the surfaces. Balls bounce pretty well but are slower, favouring players who like to play with a lot of spin on the ball. This creates more precise shots.

Clay courts are usually not enjoyed by players who rely on their strength and speed in the game. You have to be calculated to put the slower ball where you want it, while also making sure you’re staying steady while sliding around the court.

Some players thrive though, like Rafael Nadal, nicknamed the “King of Clay.” Maybe not the most built or physically strongest tennis player ever, but Nadal’s precision makes the clay court his domain, and he can be unstoppable.

Grass Court

Often seen in the United Kingdom, grass courts are home to Wimbledon. There is something about the grass courts that feel a little elevated – whether that is because of the pretty green color (which doesn’t last long into any given tournament), or the all-white dress code at Wimbledon.

The courts are made of real grass that is meticulously kept and maintained. Still, by the end of any tournament, the grass often wears away at the baseline from the friction of the players running on it. Still, the grass courts provide some different conditions than the other courts.

Grass courts are the fastest of the surfaces, and the balls bounce the lowest on these courts due to the softness of the grass. If people think clay is slippery, grass is an ice rink.

The play on grass is incredibly fast but because of the low bounce, players who like to stick closer to the net thrive. The volley and drop shot are heavily used on grass, so if that’s not your thing, you’ll probably suffer on this surface. Big servers also thrive on grass because of the speed of the ball.

The Summer Schedule

Clay Season:

After the professional tennis year starts strong on hard court with the Australian Open, players come back stateside to play through the end of March. Some of the most iconic tournaments are played in this stretch, with Indian Wells and the Miami Open providing the chance to get some big wins on hard court.

By mid-April, most players on the tour will have transitioned to clay courts to start getting acclimated to the surface ahead of the French Open (Roland Garros). Some of the biggest tournaments in April are the Monte Carlo Masters (1000 event) in Monaco, the Madrid Open in Spain (1000 event), and the Barcelona Open (500 event).

Roland Garros is traditionally at the end of May, and the last big 1000 tournament before then is the Internatzionali BNL D’Italia, in Rome.

This all culminates with Roland Garros in Paris to end off clay season, which starts in the last week of May and stretches into early June.

Grass Season:

It’s a quick turn around from clay season to grass season as the time between Roland Garros and Wimbledon is short. Players need to shed the slow style of play from clay and transition to the fast paced environment of grass.

If you make it far at Roland Garros, you’ll have less than a month to prepare for Wimbledon in early July. Of course the Olympics will often change the schedule just a bit, and that only adds another big tournament for players who will be representing their countries at the Games.

Ahead of Wimbledon, there are a few chances for players to rack up the points on grass. The two 500 level tournaments are the Cinch Championships in the UK and the Terra Wortmann Open in Spain.

Wimbledon always takes place in early to mid-July, and after it’s over there are a few other opportunities for players to get more time on grass and clay courts before heading back to hard court.

End of Summer/Fall:

After Wimbledon, players will usually head back to North America for some of the sports’ biggest events of the summer. The Atlanta Open (500-level) will finish off July, and then players can head to Canada for the National Bank Open (1000-level), in early August.

The Cincinnati Open (1000-level) follows immediately after, so there are a lot of points up for grabs in early August. Summer tennis comes to a peak at the end of August, beginning of September with the US Open in New York City.

This doesn’t mark the end of the season, though. After wrapping up play in the United States, players will often head to China and Europe in the fall to continue playing on hard court. During this time there are often Cup Tournaments (Laver Cup, Davis Cup), and players in the top ranks of each tour are fighting for places in the WTA/ATP Finals. Only the top eight players in each tour get a shot at the Finals, which are played in late November or early December.

From there, players usually get about a month off before heading back to Australia to repeat the whole thing over again.

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