Players quick to disagree on speed of court surface

NEW YORK • The speed of the Arthur Ashe Stadium court at the US Open has been hotly debated over the past few days but among the players there seems to be no consensus.

Brad Gilbert, the former player and ESPN analyst, is convinced the surface is slower than in previous years - something that, in theory, should benefit the likes of Rafael Nadal.

But players tend to be notoriously bad judges of court speed.

"I don't know," Nadal said on Monday. "I feel the court is in good conditions to play good tennis.

"Of course if you ask me what I prefer, I prefer these conditions (hot) than indoor."

Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta, who played on Ashe for the first time on Sunday, said he thought it was similar to the outside courts.

American Coco Vandeweghe said she rarely pays attention to court speed and Petra Kvitova even went the other way.

"I do feel that the courts are little bit faster maybe than the past years or last year," the Czech said.

David Brewer, the tournament director, said the speed on Ashe is the same as the outside courts and that overall the speed is exactly the same as in previous years.

"Ashe is not slower," he said. "We do measurements with our own proprietary tools prior to the tournament and then again after the tournament. Our data tells us that the CPR (Court Pace Rating) is just like any other court on the site right now."

He added that the DecoTurf courts at Flushing Meadows, which are resurfaced every year, are generally medium-fast.

Each court speeds up a little as the top level of acrylic paint, which contains sand, is worn away by the volume of matches.

There are several factors that can affect conditions - from the type of balls used to the weather, which was unseasonably cool in the first week and thus made the ball travel slower through the air.

"Players have their own subjective values of any number of things," Brewer said. "It could (be that) they changed their string tension for the day to they had a bad night's sleep or it is really humid today and it plays a little differently. All that stuff comes into it."

Even Gilbert admitted that weather played a big role.

"I do know one thing, that the court can drastically change… even if it's a slower court, if it's 100 degrees (37 deg C), the court is going to play quicker. If it's 50 degrees (10 deg C) at night, it plays considerably slower, and the balls can react to the conditions."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2017, with the headline 'Players quick to disagree on speed of court surface'. Print Edition | Subscribe