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Last Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008, 06:55 GMT
On-court blues for Aussie tennis?
By Chris Bevan

The Australian Open is using 'Australian True Blue' Plexicushion courts for the first time

They are new, and they are blue - that is all we know for sure so far about the courts at the 2008 Australian Open.

After 20 years using the notorious Rebound Ace surface, Melbourne Park will now use 'Australian Open True Blue' Plexicushion for the first time.

Rebound Ace was notorious for an inconsistent bounce as well as getting sticky in the heat - it was also blamed for many an ankle injury too - but will Plexicushion prove any better?

There has already been plenty of debate about the new courts, which have also been used at recent warm-up tournaments in Sydney, Adelaide and Perth.

BBC Sport finds out more about what is in store for players over the next fortnight.


Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley says the new courts are quicker, cooler, firmer and more consistent than Rebound Ace.

The 'Australian TrueBlue' Plexicushion court at Rod Laver Arena
The 'Australian TrueBlue' Plexicushion court at Rod Laver Arena

Tiley said: "We didn't take the decision lightly. We had an extensive review and after much research we decided it was time for a change.

"We went out into the market place and looked for the best match to our requirements. This is about what is best for players and fans.

"Plexicushion is a cushioned acrylic surface that retains less heat and guarantees us a consistent medium to medium-fast pace across all courts at Melbourne Park.

"The blue court looks better, it will be easier for everyone to see the ball and the vibrancy of the colour just lifts the entire venue.

"The players like the colour because they can actually see the ball. Officials particularly like the colour because they feel they can see the ball better."


Faster than Wimbledon's grass, according to Tiley.

Plexicushion has a speed rating of 34 to 38, which defines it as medium-fast on the International Tennis Federation's pace-rating scale.

Tiley said: "Wimbledon is actually slower and the French Open (on clay) is obviously very slow.

"So we are faster than Wimbledon, faster than the French, and a little bit below the US Open."

But despite Tiley's claims, players who have already tried the courts at Melbourne Park think they are currently slower than the old Rebound Ace surface.


BBC Sport's Piers Newbery

If the Plexicushion courts do speed up - like they are supposed to - a faster surface will benefit the likes of Roger Federer and Andy Murray over Rafael Nadal - anyone in fact who prefers hard courts to clay.

They should aid anyone with an offensive game - although not serve and volleyers as the ball will still sit up, not zipping through and staying low as it does on grass.

That is the theory anyway.


"I practised on Rod Laver Arena with the roof open and the roof closed at different times of the day, and the pace of the court didn't change.

"That was the really big thing with Rebound Ace. You could go from centre court to the outside courts and it would be playing differently."
Lleyton Hewitt, who had led calls for Rebound Ace to be replaced

Marat Safin was feeling blue at the Kooyong Classic
Marat Safin was feeling blue at the Kooyong Classic

"I thought last year the court was relatively fast, but every player has different opinions. I mean, most of the courts nowadays are pretty slow. The US Open is the fastest of the Grand Slams now and here it's kind of a similar court to the US Open now - just a little bit softer."
Andy Murray

"Maybe it was him, maybe it was the court, but it seemed so slow it was tough for me to put balls away. I think I got a bit ahead of myself."
Defending champion James Blake after losing to Fabrice Santoro in the first round at the Sydney International on 7 January

"I thought it was going to be faster but it seems to be a lot slower. It seems quite slower than the Rebound Ace that I played on last year in Sydney and Melbourne. The balls get really fluffy. Here, it's indoors, so maybe it's a bit of a different story. I don't know how it will play outside."
Jelena Jankovic

"The balls are fluffing up a lot at the moment. I mean the court surface, because it's a new court, it's a bit rough. It's like sandpaper."
The winner of the Australian Open wildcard play-offs, Victorian Joseph Sirianni.

"It's not as cool. Of course, we are going to get used to it, but just - why blue?"
Marat Safin

Australian Open plans new surface
30 May 07 |  Australian Open
On the rebound
18 Jan 06 |  Rules and Equipment
Tournament chief defends court surface
18 Jan 02 |  Australian Open


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