You would have often seen tennis players grab a handful of balls from the ball-boys/girls before settling in on a couple of them and stuffing them into their pockets. Why do players who are looking to make a tennis serve look so intently at the balls and only then choose the ones they want? Here’s why.
It is a common practice for tennis players to check the ball before serving. There are many reasons why a player may want to do so, but most commonly it is to make sure that the ball is still in good condition.
Generally, a tennis ball can be used for up to eight hours of play before it starts losing its elasticity and becomes less effective for hitting.
As such, most people prefer to change their balls every two or three sets so that they don’t have to worry about any negative effects caused by fatigue. The International Tennis Federation has created a rule which allows players to check up to three balls before serving.
But there’s much more to a ball being in a ‘good’ condition. Here are the nine most important reasons why tennis players may check different balls.
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To Check if the Ball is Smooth or Fluffy
This is the biggest reason why tennis players check multiple balls before deciding on the two or three they need – how smooth or fluffy they are.
Balls in play on the court age differently as the match progresses and some balls are smoother than others.
If the ball is smooth, it provides extra speed to the serve, which provides a huge advantage to some of the biggest servers of the game. Players like John Isner, Andy Roddick and Ivo Karlovic, who rely heavily on their serves to win their points, prefer using smoother, newer balls.
Similarly, players prefer smooth balls for their first serves.
On the other hand, fluffier balls are easier to control which means they are more useful for the second serve as players look to avoid double-faulting.
Players usually pick out on the smoothness or fluffiness of the tennis balls through look and feel having had that much experience over their careers.
To See Whether the Ball is Flat or Not
Tennis balls are made with a seam on them, and if the ball has been hit repeatedly, it will become flat. This makes it more difficult for players to return serves because they can’t get as much spin on their shots as they would like.
To check whether their balls have been hit too many times or not, many professional tennis players will bounce them against the ground before serving.
They do this by serving a few practice serves into the netting at the back of the court. This allows them to see whether their balls have been flattened out enough that they need to change them out for new ones. (and serving with new balls have their own advantages too!)
Way of Warming Up
It’s always advisable for tennis players to warm up before they start playing a match or a tournament. The warm-up sessions include stretching, practicing serves and hitting some balls on the court.
This way, you can prepare your body for an active game and also get rid of any fatigue that might have accumulated during training sessions or matches earlier in the day.
To See How Long it Takes for the Ball to Bounce
A bounce test is an important part of a tennis ball’s quality, as it can tell you whether or not a ball will be comfortable for playing with.
A player should always check the bounce of each ball before serving to ensure that they are using balls that feel good against their racquet and allow them to play at their best. It’s also important to take the ball to the baseline when checking the bounce to get an accurate reading.
To See if the Ball is Broken
A broken tennis ball is not acceptable in a match because it can affect the flight of the ball and make it unpredictable.
The type of tennis ball used depends on several factors, including whether it will be used indoors or outdoors and what kind of court surface it will be played on.
In general, there are two different types: indoor and outdoor (sometimes called “hard”).
Indoor balls are made with thicker covers than outdoor balls so they’ll bounce less when hit hard against an indoor court surface made with hardwood flooring that makes for a tough bounce back at you as well as other players competing from across your sideline (the imaginary line separating two opposing sides).
To See if There are Any Holes in the Ball
A hole in a tennis ball may be impossible to see with the naked eye and can only be detected using a microscope.
If a player serves a ball that has been punctured, it will likely be difficult to control and may not bounce properly on the court – this will negatively affect their serve speed, spin and direction of the ball.
A punctured tennis ball can also cause an unpredictable spin on contact with another object like your opponent’s racket or foot!
To Make Sure Nobody has Tampered with It
Tennis players also check their balls before serving because they want to make sure that nobody tampered with them in any way while they were away from the court or during their last match.
This includes changing their speed or weight so that they might be able to cheat in some way and get more points than they would normally be able to achieve without cheating.
To Avoid Distractions and Visualize Their Strike
Tennis players spend most of their time on the court hitting balls from one side of the court to another so as not to get distracted by anything around them such as spectators or other players talking loudly on the court.
Checking the ball before serving ensures that players don’t get distracted by anything else apart from their serve motion which makes it possible for them to concentrate on how well they perform each time they serve.
Purely as a Superstition
Some do this as a ritual, as a part of setting up for the serve or as a pure superstition because they have been doing this all their lives.
Goran Invanisevic, for instance, would often be seen asking for the same ball with which he had just won a point or served an ace.
Final Words on Tennis Players Checking for Multiple Balls Before Serving
Every serve matters in tennis, so it’s important to make sure that players have the right tennis balls before they serve.
Players can check their tennis balls before serving by choosing three out of the four different balls in a box and checking them out individually. If they don’t like how one bounces, they can ask for a new one.