When we watch a match, we often see players have a liking for certain courts. Depending on the location and elements such as altitude, temperature and court surfaces each court has its own set of characteristics which makes each court unique.
We often hear how a court is playing slower or faster than the same type of court in a different venue or than in previous years and that change will suit a certain player more than others.
Have you ever wondered what goes into making a court faster or slower or how a court is made from scratch?
Johan Muller is the owner and managing director of ProTen Surfaces: a court construction company founded in South Africa and recently began operating in Australia.
Based in Sydney, Johan has a wealth of experience in the industry and The First Serve recently sat down with Johan to discuss what goes into making a tennis court.
The First Serve (TFS): Can you tell me a little about your company?
Johan Muller (JM): Proten Surfaces is a family-owned sports construction company which has been operating in South Africa since 1994.
We specialise in all tennis surfaces which includes acrylic hard courts, synthetic grass, and synthetic and natural clay courts.
We have been the industry leader in South Africa for almost 30 years and have now expanded to Australia.
TFS: How do you make a court from scratch?
JM: We work with our clients to design a court for their needs and space. Every client is different and has unique needs which we take very seriously.
Getting down to the actual construction of the court it is important that the area is stable to support a platform. Soil testing and designing a base to ensure longevity is crucial.
Different surface options require different base options to ensure the quality of play.
We combine these options to give our clients the best possible result according to their needs.
Court enclosures are customised to complement the setting of a court whether to support spectators' value or optimal coverage in specific sides. All is designed to the clients’ needs and preference.
TFS: How long does it take to make?
JM: We are committed to making the process as short and efficient as possible insuring minimal intrusion into our clients’ lives, businesses, or operations.
Every court is different but generally, a court will take between 6 to 10 weeks depending on civil works, extras, and weather.
TFS: How much does it cost? Does it change depending on the surface?
JM: Pricing can vary depending on number of excavations and filling to insure a stable base as well as surface options.
Pricing range between $80 000 to $150 000 depending on specifications.
TFS: How does that compare to resurfacing an existing court?
JM: To resurface an existing hard court it will cost $15,000 whilst a synthetic grass court will cost $27,000.
TFS: How do you make a court that plays at the speed you desire?
JM: This is a very good question. The response of a courts surface is crucial. Whether it be a faster or slower surface to compliment your strengths as a player or team, or a softer, more forgiving surface to avoid injuries to more senior players, we do it all.
In the case of a synthetic grass surface, yarn length and density play a big role. The shorter and denser a surface the faster it will be.
When it comes to Hard courts texture is everything. We adjust the texture of a hard court to allow for faster or slower surfaces.
Rubber cushioning systems are applied to give a softer, low impact surface on hard courts. This also prolongs the life of a court.
TFS: Are there many differences between surfaces in terms of construction?
JM: Yes, there is. Different surfaces have different base requirements. Thinner surfaces are less forgiving in terms of density fluctuations in the base.
It is important to always maintain a true bounce off a tennis surface.
Therefore, it is recommended that a concrete or asphalt/bitumen platform is used for hard courts and thinner synthetic grass courts whereas a crusher base is sufficient for thicker turf options.
Clay courts on the other hand have a layered crusher base with a sprinkler system to keep the surface most, while a subsurface draining system allows water to drain through the surface.
TFS: Have you had any strange requests for courts?
JM: This happens more than you think. We’ve seen it all, from special colours that aren’t in our range to basketball courts in a mall's sports shop, a court that doubles as a helipad. I have built a court on the roof of a building.
We have cut courts into mountains and built them on stilts. What the customer wants he gets, well most of the time anyway. Some requests are just not attainable.
TFS: Have you constructed any 'famous' courts?
JM: Yes, we have. We are proud to be the preferred contractor of many Universities, private schools, and construction companies as well as to partner with Tennis South Africa (TSA) to construct and resurface courts used for the Davis Cup.
TFS: What was it like to construct a court for an event like the Davis Cup?
Working for these high-end companies is never easy. Standards are high and the price must be as low as possible. Nonetheless, we always work to meet our client’s needs.
TSA is a hole other ballgame. Their surfaces for the Davis Cup must be perfect and customised to support their players’ strengths, which change from one year to the next.
Fortunately, we love a challenge and being the best at what we do.
TFS: How many people would you have in your crew to construct one court?
JM: Our teams consist of about 6 people depending on the size of the project.
TFS: You have recently expanded your business to construct courts in Australia. How have you found that experience?
We are very excited to be in Australia and starting a new chapter in our lives.
I find people to be very open-minded and accommodating in their dealings with others.
The business environment seems healthy and thriving and this leads to a more relaxed outlook on life. This is very refreshing and comforting to us as a new player in the market.
TFS: It sounds like a busy yet exciting time for you and ProTen Surfaces. I wish you all the best for the future.
There is more involved than just finding a flat surface and some spare cash!
There are clearly lots of work that goes into constructing a court with measures in place to ensure the surface is viable and once constructed the court will have longevity and can be designed to your specific requirements. and it is fascinating to get an insight into what’s in a court.