Outdoor Courts

Wire fences round a tennis courtBecause outdoor courts are exposed to the environment, they require optimal orientation and fencing.


There are two principles that govern the orientation of tennis courts. These are:

- The position of the sun.

- The effects of shadows cast onto the court surface.

It is important to avoid players having to look into the sun when facing the opposite end of the court. As the sun moves from east to west during the day, then a similar orientation of the tennis court must be avoided. The effects of the sun are minimised by adopting a generally north-south orientation, such that the sun is to the side of (or directly overhead) the court. The general principle to follow is that, during times of maximum usage, low elevations of the sun should be avoided behind the server (it should be noted that the sun is at its lowest elevations early and late in the day).

Due to the earth’s precession (tilting of the polar axis), a north-south orientation is not always the best solution. The times of day and the seasons of the year when the court is likely to be used should be considered. For example, an outdoor court may not be heavily used in the middle of the day when the temperature is high. Similarly, some courts are intended for year-round use, while others will only be used in certain seasons. Also, the latitude at which the court is being constructed should be considered, as locations closer to the equator, where play is more likely to take place all year round are more likely to be affected by the low-elevation of the sun in winter. As an example, the following table shows that, at the equator in mid-January, the sun is in the south-west during the late afternoon to early evening period, when it is also low in the sky. Thus, a court in this location in heavy use at this time of year should be oriented north-west to south-east by about 25º.

15 January: Longitude 0º, Latitude 0º
Time Altitude (º) Azimuth (E of N) (º)
06:00 -2.1 111.3
07:00 11.9 111.7
08:00 25.7 113.7
09:00 39.2 117.8
10:00 52.0 126.0
11:00 62.9 142.5
12:00 68.7 174.1
13:00 65.5 209.6
14:00 55.7 230.2
15:00 43.3 240.3
16:00 29.9 245.4
17:00 16.2 247.9
18:00 2.4 248.8
19:00 -11.8 248.4

The position of the sun at different times of the year may be obtained from architects or websites such as that of the United States Naval Observatory (USNO).

Note: The above information may not apply if other factors must take precedence. For example, if a stadium is intended for use in tournament play, then the court orientation may need to be optimised for play during the (main matches of the) tournament. A second factor that may influence court orientation is the shape of the available land on which to build a court. Deviations of 5 to 10º (or more) from optimal values are common, although greater deviations may have an adverse effect on the game.


Fencing has two main purposes:

- To contain the ball within the playing area.

- To provide security.

There are several different types of fencing. The wire type is commonly used because it allows maximum light to pass through and people to see in and out, it’s a relatively cost-effective option, and it contains the ball within the court boundaries (the effectiveness of this will depend in part on the height of the fence).

Fencing should be constructed of (or covered with) rust resistant material, and should be free of protrusions that would increase the risk of injury to players.

Plastic-coated chain-link netting is normally used. The mesh size needs to be sufficiently small to stop the ball going through. The ball is about 65 mm in diameter, so 45 mm or 50 mm mesh is often specified. The mesh should be fixed to the court side of the mounting posts to minimise erratic bounces.

The height of the backstop depends on what is behind it. The minimum fence height is dependent on the location of the court and the problems and dangers associated with the ball going outside of the court confines. A minimum height would normally be 3.0 m, although certain conditions may require something higher, for example, if the court is close to a road or residential area.

The sidestop should be the same height as the backstop for at least 6.0 m from the backstop, with 9.0 m being recommended. Where a sidestop is used, it should not be less than 0.9 m in height.

Enough gates should be installed to allow entrance and exit at both ends of the court, to allow retrieval of balls. There should also be access for wheelchair players and any required maintenance equipment.

While their primary role is to reduce and/or deflect the effects of wind, they provide a background against which the ball can be seen. Thus, they should be of a sufficiently contrasting colour to the ball (see section on colour). They also reduce glare and provide privacy. A single colour piece of fabric is often used for this purpose.

More detail on fencing can be obtained through the relevant suppliers or consultants, a database of whom can be accessed by clicking here.


Follow the links below to find out more about the different considerations to take into account when building a tennis facility:


Site Plan

Outdoor Courts

Indoor Structures

Surface Selection

Surface Descriptions