Is USO's DecoTurf medium (cat 3) DecoTurf or fast (cat 5) Pro DecoTurf?
I seem to remember coming to the conclusion that it was standard cat3 DecoTurf, which is why I got confused as AO uses Plexicushion Prestige (cat4)
What also confuses me is that the websites for the various surfaces seem to claim completely different categories from the ITF website.
It's definitely confusing.
Again, part of the problem is that there is no mandate from the governing bodies to publicly make the court pace known before and during a tournament. There are also no set standards for each tournament.
The other problem is that the acrylic base surface used may start out as whatever the category rating is, but can be changed by applying more or less sand/grit in the top layer of paint. More grit equals more friction, more spin, slower pace and higher bounce. Less grit equals faster and lower bounce. Each tournament seems free to be able to change it as "needed". Usually this means getting input from the players and coaches during or after the tournament and then making adjustments the following year.
The Plexipave web site explicitly states for Plexicushion
: "Can be Customized to All ITF Pace Ratings"
So how can we know what the actual pace is after all tweaking and repainting/resurfacing has been done unless we are told?
The Australian Open web site says:
Court pace testing
Tennis Australia is an innovator in the area of surface pace measurement and has devised a scientifically-based method of testing the pace of tennis courts. High speed video footage of balls being projected onto a court are analysed by software developed by Tennis Australia that measures the pace and bounce characteristics of the court. The two variables measured are the coefficient of friction (pace) and the coefficient of restitution (bounce). According to the ITF Surface Pace Rating scale, the Melbourne Park courts are medium to medium-fast paced.
But again, that's not the whole story. The balls used can make a difference as well as the weather/time of day. The balls that are currently in use at the Australian Open combined with the sandpaper like surface tend to fluff up very quickly, within 2-3 games. When the balls fluff up, they travel slower through the air and it is more difficult to hit winners.
In Melbourne during the Australian Open time frame, day time temperatures can vary between 23 C / 75 and over 40 C. (>104 F.). During the day when the weather is hot and sunny, the balls tend to fly faster through the dryer hotter air, and you will see many more winners. When the weather cools at night, the balls travel slower and there are generally much fewer winners and more errors. 2012 was a perfect example of all of this. Look at the play of the players that prefer faster/lower bouncing conditions vs the play of those that prefer slower/high bouncing conditions and the time of day they played and the weather conditions at those times.
Here is a good article
regarding the pace of the various slam surfaces. In it, the pace of the Australian Open is listed at 34
(highest medium slow rate) and the usual pace of the US Open around 40
(slowest medium-fast rate). A good case was made for the 2011 Roland Garros
clay surface combined with faster Babolat balls playing faster than the Australian Open and Wimbledon that year based on percentage of winners being higher
at Roland Garros.
It's not a straight-forward issue, but better transparency and standards are certainly possible. It's a matter of whether the mandate to do it is strong enough vs. what seems to be a confusion through obscurity approach.
I'm afraid this will start getting us into the whole surface homogenization/speed up the courts debate. So I'll stop here.