The court speed at the Australian Open has yet to be tested but some ATP players are saying that the court at Pat Rafter Arena at the Brisbane International is playing as quick as any outdoor surface on tour.
Given that Tennis Australian runs both tournaments it’s possible that the 2014 Australian Open could be playing quicker than it has in years, which fast court lovers like Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt and Marin Cilic will be quite pleased with. Novak Djokovic has dominated the Australian Open as of late and he prefers medium speed hard courts.
The courts in Brisbane have been frying in the Queensland heat wave, so it’s possible that if the weather cools down in Melbourne that those courts will slow down. But Federer, who owns more fast court titles than any other active player on tour, wouldn’t mind seeing attacking games complimented.
“It depends how Melbourne is going to be playing but I prefer to go from fast to slower because then you usually return better,” Federer said “I like it a bit faster, to be honest. It’s just nice when the slider drags a bit or the slice stays a bit lower and guys don’t just eat it up, even though it’s a decent slice. So I think it’s a good thing that it’s a bit faster here.”
The big-hitting Cilic, who has reached the Brisbane quarters and is a former Australian Open semifinalist, has benefitted from the speed too, going as far to say that the only court he can really see that is faster is indoors.
“I would say this is the fastest that I played on,” he said. “Maybe there was a Bercy, which was quicker because it’s, okay, indoor. But not the 2013 one. Maybe 2012. The courts are extremely fast, and it’s not easy to break. The points are going really quick. It feels too fast comparing to the one that it’s usually, that we are used to. We get used to it quickly. It’s a matter of one or two days. I would say just it’s a bit surprising actually I was not expecting it’s going to be this fast. We’ll see what’s going to be next weeks.”
Hewitt, who has reached the Brisbane quarters and also owns a Wimbledon title, says that he isn’t sure how Melbourne will play, but isn’t concerned as he’s been told that slicker courts are the favor of the Aussie summer.
“It doesn’t worry me,” he said. “I was surprised when I hit on this court. Few people originally thought ‑‑ they were worried that it could be slow, and then I came up a few weeks ago and had a hit on it and I said, ‘You don’t have to worry about it being slow. That wasn’t a problem.’
The veteran agreed that the Brisbane courts are as fast anything on tour now, and he’s played on just about every surface in every locale in the world. He likes fast courts, but says that it takes a while getting used to these days. He says Brisbane might be as fast as the US Open’s Arthur Ashe Stadium back at the start of the last decade, when he shocked the serve and volleying Pete Sampras for the 2001 title.
“Close [to it],” Hewitt said.” I think on a hot day with these balls. These balls are definitely different to last year for sure. The US Open courts have changed since I won there. When Pat Rafter played [in 1997-98 when he won back to back titles, there was really like a sort of like nearly a glass top on it. It was really shiny out there. Now there is a lot more grit in the court, which obviously slows it up and makes the balls heavier. That was what these [Brisbane] courts were like last year. They were a lot heavier with that grit. There’s very little grit out there on the court. I think it does play a little bit slower at nighttime and obviously in the humidity a little bit. Some of the outside courts during the day in the heat, it’s pretty quick…[But] I really don’t know if Melbourne will be.”