With tennis being played across seasons at times in this day and age, it becomes imperative for players, clubs, tournament organizers to understand how long it could take for a tennis court to dry out after a spell of rain.
While a sport like football can be played even with the elements at their worst, playing tennis in rain isn’t quite the best way to go about things given the risks associated with it.
In this piece below, we look at the various factors associated with the drying of tennis courts following a downpour including the time taken to dry, effect of rain on different surfaces and the water-drying equipment for tennis courts.
First things first though. Can tennis be played in rain?
We will look to explore this in a longer piece later on this site, but to answer it simply, tennis isn’t quite the sport you are looking at if you want to play it in rainy conditions.
Sure, if you are out playing tennis for fun with your friends and you can be ultra-careful in your approach, this hit-and-giggle form can probably still be attempted in rain. However, at a slightly more serious and competitive level one can avoid doing that.
The reason to avoid playing tennis in rain is the risk associated with slipping and doing one’s ankle or knee or another body muscle because of that. This is because of the pace at which a sport like tennis is played and the amount of quick-stopping and turning associated with it.
The other, more feasible option is to allow the rain to relent and the court surface to dry before resuming your play.
So how much time can it take for a tennis court to dry after a rainfall? This can vary depending on multiple factors like the overhead conditions, the kind of surface and the equipment in use to dry out the surface but it could take anywhere between one to four hours for tennis courts to dry following a downpour.
How Much Time Does it Take to Dry a Clay Court Tennis Surface?
It could take up to an hour for a clay court tennis surface to dry following rain but the main advantage of playing on clay is one can continue playing on it for about 20-30 minutes even when there’s a very light drizzle.
This isn’t possible on any other surface because the risk of injuries increases drastically with even the slightest of wetness on the courts.
How Much Time Does it Take to Dry a Hardcourt Tennis Surface?
A hardcourt surface requires about two hours of drying after the rains have elapsed and unlike clay court surfaces, players have to stop playing almost immediately after the rain comes down.
This is because unlike clay, the drainage associated with hard court surfaces isn’t the best and it could render the surface very slippery.
How Much Time Does it Take to Dry a Grass Court Tennis Surface?
It’s the worst with grass court surfaces in tennis. A whiff of rain and the play needs to be stopped because even the slightest of dampness could cause slipping and horrible injuries.
Take the example of the 2021 Wimbledon where Serena Williams and Adrian Mannarino slipped and injured themselves badly enough to have to withdraw from their respective matches.
That being the case, tennis grass court organizers need to be very careful in both, taking the players off the court at the first sign of precipitation and then take their time to ensure the grass is dry enough to resume once the rain stops.
It could take about four hours for play to resume at local grass court competitions following the passing of a rain-shower and even more if it’s rained really hard for a while.
Factors for Time Taken to Dry a Tennis Court after Rain
Here’s a lowdown on the factors which could affect the drying of a tennis court.
Currently there are three main types of surfaces on which tennis is played – hard courts, grass and clay. At one point, tennis was played on carpet as well but no longer.
These surfaces take different times to dry out and even within, say, a hardcourt surface, there could be differences in the amount of time taken because of the absorbability of the surface.
To give you a rough idea on the amount of time taken for a hardcourt surface to dry, it could take around two hours after a heavy downpour.
Clay courts could take a little less time, about an hour to two or so if it rains heavily. It should also be noted here that the advantage of playing on clay is one can continue playing if it’s a light rain because of the ability of clay to absorb the water.
Grass is the hardest court to either play on when it’s raining or even to dry after the rain has stopped, at times even four hours. Even if the slightest of moisture gets on to the court, it could take a long time for the players to return to court.
One cannot expect courts to dry quickly if the overhead conditions are still cloudy and the air is laced with very high humidity. This slows the evaporation process down rather dramatically and that will increase the time taken for the courts to dry.
A windier day could help with the mopping up process while on a very still day, it could take time for the courts to dry out.
Some tennis clubs cannot afford the really expensive tennis court drying equipment and have to make do with the most basic Squeegees.
Some other make use of the more advanced Super Soppers and others even more advanced tennis court equipment which can be both, easier to operate and quicker to dry but at the same time a pinch to the pocket.
The tennis court drying process could be dependent on the aforementioned too.
What do Tournament Organizers do to Overcome the Rain Threat?
While it might not have a major bearing at the amateur level if courts take a long time to dry after the rain has stopped, competitive tennis tournaments need a quick turnaround time between rain stoppages or it could lead to losses.
You don’t want tournaments to be abandoned at the highest level because of inclement weather. While it’s not common occurrence, ATP and WTA tournaments have had to be cancelled at times thanks to rain and that’s not the kind of situation they would want a repeat of.
The measures that tennis organizers take to overcome weather threat in general and in particular issues with rain is the following:
A few of the top-level outdoor tennis tournaments now have a retractable roof over their main stadium to prevent long stoppages. All four Grand Slam competitions, for instance, Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open are outdoor tournaments but have the facility of a retractable roof.
Three of the courts at the Australian Open have been fitted with such roofs – the Rod Laver Arena, John Cain Arena and the Margaret Court Arena. At the French Open, the Philippe-Chatrier has one which can be closed in 15 minutes, while Wimbledon and US Open have two stadiums apiece with a roof.
While not all encounters can be protected from delays as a result of the number of matches that are played in the first few rounds of these majors, it is still a start and helps a great deal in the later stages of the tournaments.
Over time, technology has improved immensely and the court surfaces on offer have steadily become better in draining the excessive water once the rain stops.
In 2021, for instance, Dow combined their materials science technology with B.T. Sports’ application and system integration experience and attempted to solve three core issues associated with this rain problem:
- Reduction in play disruption because of the formation of water puddles on court
- Enhance safety to avoid slipping risk
- Improve environment-sustainability of courts
What they came up with is the GreenPave PermeaCourt which supposedly allows players to resume playing tennis almost immediately after the rain has passed.
Quick Covering of the Surface (Especially on Grass)
Tournament organizers train volunteers to cover the entire court in quick time to ensure the rain doesn’t cause longish delays in getting the court ready once it’s stopped.
Check how quickly the courts at Wimbledon are covered at the first sign of rains!
Better Drying Equipment
As the profile of a tournament grows, it becomes more and more important for the organizers to invest in quicker-drying equipment. Some of the best tennis court drying equipment can be found in our list here and depending on the organization’s budget, they can go ahead with buying the right fit for them.
Final Words on Time Taken to Dry a Tennis Court
While some might want to experiment playing tennis in rain, especially at the beginner level it is an exercise fraught with injury risk.
It also behooves players to ensure the tennis surface they are playing on has sufficiently dried before they resume playing after a rain burst and the as mentioned in the piece above, it could take some time before one can get on to a tennis court.