Understanding Tennis Court 'Dead Spots'
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Last week, for a brief moment, at the Australian Open tennis tournament, it appeared that the laws of physics had taken a leave of absence. While warming up for a match, tennis star Maria Sharapova noticed a spot on the hard court that felt a bit off. It seemed softer than the rest of the court.
The umpire came over to examine. He tried to bounce a ball on the spot but the ball refused to bounce. It simply dropped and stopped, as if stuck.
The court had developed what is known as a dead spot. And for more on this, I'm joined by Joe Ure of Sport Court. They provide playing surfaces for basketball and tennis courts. Welcome to the program.
Mr. JOE URE (Director of Distribution Sales, Sport Court): Thank you.
NORRIS: Now, anyone who plays tennis sometimes claims that there's a dead spot or a spot on the court where maybe the ball doesn't bounce the right way, but this was truly a dead spot. The ball just did not bounce.
Mr. URE: Yeah, I've never seen a ball not bounce at all. It was like Velcro. It was amazing.
NORRIS: What causes something like that?
Mr. URE: A dead spot in a tennis court like that would normally be caused by the surface that they're playing on not being bonded to the subsurface.
NORRIS: So help us understand that. There would be sort of some cement underlay, and then over the top of that would be the surface where tennis is actually played?
Mr. URE: Yes, typically the sub-base is going to be concrete or asphalt, and then a surface is laid over that. In the case of the Australian Open, it's probably a cushioned surface. So there's probably several layers that are put down.
And then the actual playing surface at the top is an acrylic paint with some fine grit in it to give it some traction, and it has the colors and the lines painted on it. If that top surface doesn't bond to that concrete or asphalt, you can have a dead spot underneath it.
NORRIS: How did they fix the problem in Australia?
Mr. URE: Well, from the video, it looked like they poked a hole in it and allowed probably the heated gases to escape and pushed it down. I would suspect that maybe they came in at night and shot some glue in there and got it to bond down tighter to the subsurface.
NORRIS: You know, I'm just wondering how often this happens and whether there are cases where sometimes people live with it. I mean, in the Garden, it's said that there were several dead spots on the parquet floor, and that might even give the Celtics a bit of a home-team advantage.
Mr. URE: Yeah, it's not really common, but it does happen, and the Celtics floor was an old floor and had developed some dead spots. And they do talk about it jokingly as the home-court advantage. If you know where those dead spots are, you would avoid them yourself and get your opponents to play into them to your advantage.
But we just replaced that floor for the Boston Gardens, and they're very happy with that new floor.
NORRIS: So, you know, when you were watching that video, what was going through your mind? You had to be thinking about the guy that actually was responsible for that court where this happened.
Mr. URE: What was going through my mind was I'm glad that it's someone else and not me.
(Soundbite of laughter)
NORRIS: Well, Joe Ure, thanks so much for talking to us.
Mr. URE: You bet, thank you.
NORRIS: Joe Ure is the director of distribution sales for Connor Sport Court in Salt Lake City, Utah. We were talking about a dead spot found in the surface of one of the tennis courts at the Australian Open.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.