Players at the recent Darwin Tennis International competition found competing on the Marrara courts difficult. Picture: Justin Kennedy
Players at the recent Darwin Tennis International competition found competing on the Marrara courts difficult. Picture: Justin Kennedy

Behold: the worst tennis court in Australia

HEADS are going to roll, because the balls certainly are.

At future competition games at the centre court at Darwin's new $16.7 million Marrara Tennis Centre, the ball boys and girls will need only to stand at one side of the court. The playing surface is so bizarrely steep there is only one way the balls can go: downhill, fast.

That's if there's ever another professional competition on the main "show court", which was proudly opened by Tennis NT on June 1. That seems unlikely until the massive stuff-up is fixed at great expense.

It can be said for certain that whoever provided plans for the centre court was not involved in the design of the great pyramids. Back then, they knew what was up. And down.

We took a mathematical analyst for a look at the court. He reckons the gradient, which was supposedly built to International Tennis Federation standards, is more than double what the ITF deems acceptable. It is not fit for a Davis Cup or any other cup.

At future competition games at the centre court at Darwin’s Marrara Tennis Centre, the ball boys and girls will need only to stand at one side of the court. Picture: Patrina Malone
At future competition games at the centre court at Darwin’s Marrara Tennis Centre, the ball boys and girls will need only to stand at one side of the court. Picture: Patrina Malone

One top-seeded female pro who competed at the recent Darwin Tennis International told me: "I've never played on a court like that before."

These days, we have laser levellers, theodolites and spirit levels. But you don't need Pythagoras or inverse sine to tell you something's wrong at Mararra. Even a bloke laying backyard pavers would not have signed off on a slant like that.

When the NT News first broke the story on Monday, with a front-page headline "BALLS UP" (followed on Wednesday with another front page, "GRAND SHAM" as more revelations came to light), no one quite believed it. Because it was unbelievable.

A contractor had tweeted a photo he'd taken of the bare concrete court, just before it was finished in blue acrylic Plexicushion.

He wrote: "I surfaced the court, this is what it looked like beforehand, the builder gave them a price to rectify it and Tennis NT said no, they even asked us to paint the surround colour up the wall in a straight line so it looked more level." He signed off with a laugh-till-you-cry emoji.

Brydan Klein of Great Britain during the Australian Pro Tour quarter finals at the Darwin International Tennis Centre.
Brydan Klein of Great Britain during the Australian Pro Tour quarter finals at the Darwin International Tennis Centre.

That contractor's Twitter account has now been deleted. But the point was made.

Halikos, the builder, say they are not to blame. They won the tender, and say they built the court according to specifications in the contract. An independent assessor signed off on the build based on the specs that were provided.

There is some logic to their defence.

We know that Tennis NT was the project manager. It provided the specs. We also know Tennis NT does not design tennis courts. It took advice from an architect.

We'd like to know who provided the specs for a bent court. Phone calls to a local and national company called MODE, whose website proudly states it "has been commissioned to design and document the new Marrara Tennis Centre" have not so far been returned.

The sense is that this thing is headed to court. A legal court.

Paul Toohey is a senior News Corp reporter, based in Darwin.