Tennis Balls: Everything You Need to Know about Them

Everything about tennis balls

Wanting to know everything about tennis balls including its best qualities, bit of history, how they are made and the various versions of it? Here’s more…

Tennis balls are easily recognisable. We play tennis with them, we watch superstars play tennis with them, dogs love to chase them, kids love to play ball with them, and of course, tennis balls are well branded and in all the major sports stores.

A tennis ball is easily recognizable because tennis is such a recognisable and popular sport, not only by sight, but also by weight and by feel. While there are many fake tennis balls for sale (for games like catch, or for dogs), a good tennis ball always has the same qualities.

The qualities of a tennis ball include

  • A good bounce
  • A good fuzz, which allows the ball to last longer.
  • A visible seam.
  • Good all round performance, for all level players.
  • Durability.
  • Good value for money.
  • A good tennis ball is well made, will last for several tennis matches before going flat or ‘dying,’ (unless you hit the ball like Federer), and must be approved by the International Tennis Federation.

How is a Tennis Ball made?

Tennis balls are made of a high-level and good quality rubber core that is hollowed out. The rubber is prepped and kneaded or moulded into a half shell, before going through a heating process.

There are in fact three heating and curing processes before shells are moulded together, into the shape of a ball with a hollow core.

The ball goes through several more processes, similar to sandpapering, before being covered in adhesive and felt and/or wool, which is known as a nap. This cover can also be nylon.

Seams are added and the ball goes through a smoothening process and then a steaming process. The branding is added (think of Wilson balls, as an example) before being inspected, placed in pressurised cans, and sold.

It is the pressurised core that gives the ball its bounce. Tennis balls should bounce well on all surfaces of a tennis court, including cement, clay, grass or sand. If a ball does not bounce it is known as a flat or a dead ball, and the pressure has gone out of it.

In professional tournament tennis, the ATP, balls are often replaced every set, due to the force that the players use. In ordinary tennis with ordinary players, three tennis balls should last a couple of matches. We say three tennis balls as generally three balls are used on a court, at the same time.

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Tennis Balls used to be White

Depending on your age, you may remember when tennis balls were white. I do. Today almost tennis balls are yellow, but they do come in a few different but standard colours.

The good tennis balls are branded.

Yellow tennis balls are used in all the major tournaments and this is not only so the players can easily see the ball, but so the millions of television viewers can easily follow the ball.

The first yellow tennis balls were used in Wimbledon in 1986, and caused quite a stir! You can imagine Wimbledon where everything was white and pristine. Suddenly a yellow tennis ball came on the scene and changed everything – especially for the television audience!

There are a Variety of Tennis Balls

Balls bounce differently depending on altitude. It is for this reason there are tennis balls made for various altitudes. Here are some of the varieties:-

  • Regular duty tennis balls.
  • Extra duty tennis balls.
  • High altitude tennis balls.

If you are a new or regular tennis player, regular duty tennis balls will be just fine. These are the balls used at schools, at clubs, by tennis coaches and at tournaments. Regular duty tennis balls are suitable for clay and indoor courts.

Extra duty tennis balls are more suited for grass or concrete tennis courts.

High altitude tennis balls are of course used in high altitude areas. If regular tennis balls are used, and many do use them, they bounce pretty high which makes it difficult for the players to adapt their game.

At any international tournament, or even local tournaments, good quality tennis balls will be used.

What is the difference between a Pressurised and Non-Pressurised tennis balls?

There are:

  • Pressurized tennis balls
  • Pressureless (or non-Pressurised) tennis balls

Pressurised tennis balls are the ones we spoke about above. They have the hollow core and are filled with air or nitrogen. They come in cans of three, sometimes four, and the cans are pressurised and / or hermetically sealed.

The balls have a good bounce, and as they get older, the bounce begins to lessen but this does take some time. Pressurized tennis balls are used in all top tennis tournaments.

Pressureless tennis balls have solid cores. They last a long time, the bounce remains high for a long time, but the felt wears off quickly which is not so good for durability.

They do not come in pressurised cans but rather in mesh nets or bags.

What are the specifications of a Tennis Ball?

Tennis balls must follow the specifications as per the rules of the International Tennis Federation. These include:

  • The weight of the tennis ball must be between 56 gas and 59.4 grams.
  • The size of the ball must be 6.35 – 6.86 cm in diameter.
  • The rebound height must be between 135 and 147 cms.

Tennis balls must be tested under certain conditions, including:-

  • A temperature of 20 degrees celsius.
  • Humidity of 60%
  • An atmospheric pressure of 102 kPA.

Approximately 300 million – yes, you read that right – 300 million tennis balls are produced each year. The ITF has approved over 200 tennis ball brands. The most well known tennis ball brands include, but are not limited to:-

  • Dunlop
  • Wilson
  • Slazenger
  • Babolat
  • Prince
  • Penn Penn
  • Head

Are Tennis Balls expensive?

In general, tennis can be an expensive game. A good racket, access to a tennis court, the balls, and of course the outfits, can add up. If you are playing socially, you may need to be a member of a sports club, unless you are lucky to have a court at home.

Saying this, there are tennis rackets and tennis balls on the market that do not cost an arm and a leg, and the good equipment does last for a long time.

Balls can be expensive, but unless you are serving as fast as Nadal, Djokovic or Federer, your balls will last a fairly long time.

We have mentioned there are over 200 brand name tennis balls. Some are better quality than others.

Some of the more expensive tennis balls include the:

  • Dunlop Fort Tournament
  • Head No. One
  • Wilson Tour Germany
  • Wilson Australian Open
  • Wilson Tour Clay Green
  • Wilson US Open Tennis Ball
  • Babolat French Open All Category
  • Babolat French Open Clay

Tennis balls come in either pressurised cans of three or four. You should do research online and the quality tennis ball you choose will depend on your budget as well as how seriously you are taking the ball.

If you are playing professionally, or want to play tennis professionally, you may want to look at the more expensive tennis balls. The quality, bounce and durability are better than the less expensive balls.

Why are tennis balls sold in pressurised containers?

We mentioned this above as well but the pressurised containers keep the tennis balls from going flat.

Remember, most tennis balls are pressurised themselves, and it is only after play begins that the pressurisation lessens. If the tennis balls were not kept in pressurised containers, they would go flat or be ‘dead balls’ before play began.

How to choose a tennis ball?

We would suggest you start off with regular tennis balls and don’t even think of breaking the bank.

If you or your family being to play tennis regularly, then get better quality tennis balls as you go along.

You never want to play with the fake balls as they honestly do not give you any bounce, and will break open almost immediately. Buy medium quality tennis balls to start off with and try very hard not to hit them over the fence.

You do prefer a tennis ball that lasts.

If you are playing tennis you will know what it feels like to hit a flat ball. You do not have control over that ball. As soon as balls go flat, recycle them, give them to the dog, or to the kids, and buy yourself some new balls!

A good tennis ball, like a good tennis racket, will:-

  • Improve your game.
  • Offer value for money.
  • Allow you to have more control over the game.
  • Last longer.
  • And look good too!

Where to buy tennis balls

You can order tennis balls online or you can pop into any good sports store. Almost all sports stores, and obviously tennis speciality stores, will stock a good range of tennis balls. Online purchases may be easier in that you can buy in bulk, perhaps add other tennis accessories you need, and have everything delivered to your doorstep. More information on the various ways to buy tennis balls will be updated in another piece on the site and we will update that here.

Stan Boone

I am the editor of Racket Sports World. I love my tennis, pickleball and most of the other racket sports played around the world and started this blog as my way to help other racquet sports fans even as I learn, explore and improve by connecting with them. Tweet at https://twitter.com/StanBooneTennis.

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