Casual players might look at all the different tennis balls available and not notice much of a difference. The more players play, the more critical it is to get just the right tennis ball. Everyone has personal preferences, but at the end of the day, a quality option is what most are looking for.
With several brands putting out quality tennis balls, which company makes the very best? There is no definitive answer, but there are certain options that stand out.
After playing with hundreds of different tennis balls, I can confidently say that the balls below are the ones that I’ve had the best experience with. Take a look at the list below and find out which one is more suitable for you.
Before going through each one, here’s a sneak peek of the best tennis balls and their overall ratings.
|Rank||Tennis Ball||Overall Rating (1-10)|
|1||Pro Penn Marathon||9.1|
|2||Wilson U.S Open||8.8|
|4||Penn Coach Practice||8.4|
|6||Babolat Gold Championship||8.3|
|7||Dunlop ATP Championship||8.2|
1. Wilson U.S Open
The official tennis ball the U.S. Open is built to be the most popular performance tennis ball from Wilson right now. The extra duty version is the same exact option used in the Grand Slam event, and it is one of the most popular balls at any level.
The felt used on both versions of the ball is very durable, and built specifically for that type of play. On the clay court, the felt prevents clay buildup and discoloration better than most other options out there. On hard courts, it is all about keeping the fluff down and allowing people to play consistently.
Another great thing about this ball is that since it is such a high-level option, it lasts long even after a good amount of heavy-hitting. Wilson has strong cores inside its tennis balls, and this one is no different.
Not everyone is going to benefit from getting a more expensive can of tennis balls like these. For a slightly cheaper option that won’t last quite as long, the one below might be the way to go. Both provide great value, but this is considered the best of the best. Players who have a big match should splurge for better balls to benefit both players.
- Official US Open ball
- Affordably priced
- Avoids fluffing up quickly
- Tend to get dirtier than other tennis balls
- Struggles with moisture
2. Wilson Championship
The Wilson Championship ball is something that is very readily available at just about any store out there. Not only is it one of the highest-selling balls at tennis stores, but it can also be found pretty regularly at general stores as well.
They are a little cheaper and not quite as durable as some of the top options from all the different companies, but it still makes a very dependable ball for any skill level.
Available in extra duty and regular duty, this is the can that a lot of people pick up at the last moment. Maybe they do not have any other cans readily available, so grabbing this can come in handy.
The regular-duty felt, designed for clay courts, working a little bit better with this ball. One of the ways that Wilson cuts corners and makes it a little cheaper is that the felt is not as strong or durable.
That makes less of a difference on clay courts, so don’t be afraid to use these on that surface. It takes a lot for the felt to break down on the clay courts.
They are still fine for hard courts as well, just keep in mind that they will not stay fresh for as long. Most people will start to see the ball wear down significantly towards the end of a match. They might be done entirely after a match, preventing them from having a chance to be thrown into a bucket for practice.
Another reason why people like this ball simply comes down to the fact that it is so commonly found in the local courts. If so many other people are using the same ball, players like that level of consistency.
People start to get used to how the ball plays and bounces, and sticking with that option at all times can provide better strokes.
- Versatile enough to use for matches or practice
- Sold everywhere online and in stores
- Not much savings for a drop in durability
- Pick up dirt easily
3. Dunlop ATP Extra Duty
Wilson and Penn have dominated the tennis ball industry for a few years now, but Dunlop is making a strong push to get back in the game. One of their best balls is the Dunlop ATP, and it is receiving a lot of notoriety for being extremely similar to the ball used at the Australian Open.
As the official ball sponsor of the Australian Open, Dunlop is hoping to break into the casual market as well for players of all levels.
They are taking a step in the right direction with these balls. This is their newest model out right now, and they have received some positive reviews so far.
Players are really liking the added durability to the felt, marketed as HD Pro Cloth. Some of Dunlop’s balls in the past did not live up to expectations with felt durability, and these tweaks have certainly helped.
They have also improved the core of the ball, offering more consistency on every stroke. The ball stays livelier on any surface, which is a huge step in the right direction. Dunlop is hoping that their partnership with the ATP tour is going to help grow the brand and help compete against the more established balls.
They understand that it’s difficult to make people convert, but by offering some slightly different balls that have their own set of positives, they are taking a step in the right direction.
- HD Pro Core technology helps keep the ball lively
- HD Pro Cloth makes for a pretty bright ball
- Official ball of the ATP tour
- Tough to convince people to switch from Wilson or Penn
- More expensive by the case than Penn
4. Dunlop ATP Championship
The Dunlop ATP championship ball is just a minor step down from what is detailed above. The trade-off is that a person can find some pretty good value with these balls, even if they don’t last quite as long.
They still have some pretty solid life in them, and with technology like Max Core and DuraFelt, it helps people feel like they can play for a while.
The freshly opened balls feel very much like the premium options detailed above. The difference won’t be that noticeable until they are played with and worn down a bit. This ball just shows its age a little bit quicker, and that is expected for any ball in this price range.
Unfortunately, the ball doesn’t stay at the top of its game for as long as some other options from different companies. It seems like it mostly has to do with the core, losing pressure faster than some of the competition.
It’s not a huge deal, but it could be the difference-maker for some people who are trying to pick between different ball options.
Some people gravitate towards this option from Dunlop over the competition, but most find that slight lack of durability as a difference-maker. It is worth trying out, but Dunlop is finding that they are fighting an uphill battle in getting players to convert if they don’t truly surpass them.
- Core technology is very similar to the high end ball
- Capable of working well on any court surface
- Felt holds up after extended play
- Starts to get dirty fairly quickly
- Tough to use days later for practice
5. Dunlop Championship
Out of the three Dunlop balls that make the cut, this is the cheapest of them all. It is noticeable that it is the most affordable option when comparing the performance of the three, but it doesn’t make this ball worthless.
In fact, many players who are out to have fun or maybe don’t hit particularly hard will find it worth the extra savings to go with this version.
Dunlop uses a lot of the same technology with all of their different balls at this time. The DuraFelt technology with Dunlap in regards to this ball isn’t that much different than the top-level option. It doesn’t last quite as long, but it stays strong well through the first hour of heavy play.
Another reason why this ball is very popular is that it’s affordable enough to make a pretty good practice ball. Some people open up a brand new can and have intense practice with someone else. After that, it can go into a basket or bucket, only to be used later on in other practices.
It does a much better job retaining air pressure than the Dunlop ATP Championship ball, so if that is the plan, this is the one to buy.
It does take a bit of hunting to find Dunlop balls in some cases. Not every website sells them, and local tennis shops also have stopped carrying them. For those people who really want to try it, looking for a great deal online is usually the way to go.
- Inexpensive, playable ball
- Lines ups similarly in a lot of ways with Wilson’s low model
- Stays strong for practice use later on
- Not that much of a price difference compared to other models
- Ball will look dirty fairly early on
6. Pro Penn Marathon
A lot of tennis players believe that the Pro Penn Marathon ball is the best of the best. It certainly has a lot of great features that people love, and since so many people play with it on a nightly basis, it has a level of consistency as well. Is it really the best though?
Read up on the technology in the ball, and it is hard to argue against it. To start with, Penn makes sure that this is a truly durable solution. The Encore Technology adds an extra bit of longevity to the core of the ball.
Balls are inevitably always going to lose air during a match, but the strengthened core slows that down. Losing air happens more frequently with hard hitters, which is why this ball is so popular with professionals.
The other part of a ball that shows wear and tear is the felt. Using Long Play Felt, there is added durability on both the hard court and the clay court model of this ball.
Players will notice right away that when compared to other Penn models, or options from other brands for that matter, this ball stays looking fresh longer than anyone.
The felt really pops on clay court, as balls from the competition start to look pretty dirty after a while. It’s frustrating to play with dirty tennis balls, especially at night.
That’s why Penn continues to be a top seller, specifically in the United States. It might not be the perfect tennis ball, but it’s as close to perfection as possible right now.
- Best durability in its class
- Felt is durable and easy to see
- Very consistent bounce from first ball to two hours in
- Runs a little expensive
- Some players might have personal preferences regarding other brands
7. Penn Championship
With the Pro Penn balls being so highly rated, some people might feel like the Penn Championship tennis balls could possibly be overlooked. While they can’t stack up against the Pro Penn options, they are not meant to be direct competitors.
The purpose of the Penn Championship tennis balls is to offer an affordable solution for players who might not need the best of the best. Maybe they’re playing on clay court, and the balls do not get worn out as much there.
Another possibility is that two players don’t hit particularly hard, so they won’t need the most durable ball out there.
Despite some limitations, this is a very good tennis ball that will perform at a high level. The company sells it in both an extra duty and regular duty, making it perfect for any type of surface.
The hard court balls are more plentiful and easier to find, but they are good enough to use on clay courts in a pinch. Otherwise, try to hunt down the clay-court version.
If a local store is offering tennis balls, this is the version they likely have. It isn’t going to be the best ball ever, but it performs well enough that people will be satisfied.
When playing a high-level match, it might make sense to go with a new can of balls after every set. It can get pretty costly in that regard, which is why some picky people will jump up to the Pro Penn Marathon if that is the case.
If balls that are losing air pressure don’t matter that much, they a can will make it through a match just fine.
- Affordable can of balls
- Readily available just about anywhere
- Popular choice amongst casual players, making performance predictable
- Doesn’t last particularly long
- Picks up clay somewhat easily
8. Babolat Gold Championship
Babolat might not be the most well-known company when it comes to making tennis balls, but they have some great options that people enjoy using. For the last few years, they have been the official ball sponsor for the French Open. Even though that is no longer the case, it helped to introduce them to the market.
The best overall ball that they offer right now is the Babolat Gold Championship. It is one of their most expensive offerings, but it provides a very unique option that plays just a little bit differently than other balls out there.
No matter if a person is playing on a hard court or clay court, the ball has a very tight weave with the felt. They don’t fluff up nearly as much as other balls out there, which keeps them moving pretty quickly even after they are showing some wear and tear.
The biggest thing working against Babolat with this ball is that it doesn’t play particularly close to the other major brands.
Since players are always moving around and using different options depending on who they are playing with, most don’t like to stray too far away. Babolat is trying to be just a little bit too different, and that might be hurting them in the long run.
Still, it’s a very durable ball that needs to be tried out to get a feel for how it plays. Some people have fallen in love with this ball, and want to use it as often as possible.
- Very durable
- Tight weave keeps balls fast
- Keeps its bounce for a long time
- Shows dirt quickly
- Plays differently than other top options
9. Penn Coach Practice
For a practice ball that looks and feels mostly like a standard option, this ball from Penn is the perfect solution. It is cheaper to buy these in bulk than to buy a bunch of brand new cans to use strictly for practice.
Most people who practice a lot on their own like to accumulate balls in one way or another. Perhaps using old balls can help in some ways, but other people are trying to have a mixture of balls that will stay strong for a while.
These practice balls are great because while they don’t have the same pop as a standard can, they are more durable than anything out there. That means they will stay in dependable practice ball for hours and hours, saving people money in the end.
The ball has felt that will provide a consistent bounce every single time. It works on both hard courts and clay courts, and buying a case of them is really not all that expensive. It cost less than buying a case of regular balls, and they tend to last longer as long as they are only used for practice.
Every player needs to practice, so it doesn’t hurt to have some of these balls around. It’s a legitimate way to save a little bit of money instead of always buying regular balls. They work on practicing any type of stroke, and having a few to warm up with doesn’t hurt either.
- Last longer than any other practice ball
- Provide a consistent balance on any court
- Not suitable for matchplay
- Tough to practice serves with due to lack of pop
What To Look For In Tennis Balls
Picking the right tennis balls Is more important than most players think. At first glance, every tennis ball looks relatively the same, but it is crucial to keep a few things in mind when shopping.
Types of Tennis Balls
Generally speaking, tennis players will find one of two options at a local store or online. There are extra-duty tennis balls and regular-duty tennis balls.
They look almost exactly the same out of the can, with the only difference being slightly different lettering/coloring from a lot of manufacturers. However, after just a few minutes of playing, they perform vastly differently on other surfaces.
- Extra Duty Tennis Balls: Made for hard surfaces
- Regular Duty Tennis Balls: Made for clay courts
Extra Duty Balls
These balls are designed specifically for hard surfaces. They are more durable because of a thicker layer of felt, but it is necessary to deal with the hard surface. The drawback is that they do not tend to play as fast, but hard courts are fast enough to keep the game moving just fine.
Players looking to get the most overall mileage out of tennis balls will like these as options. Just understand that if used on clay courts, they tend to fluff up and not handle dirt/moisture as well.
Regular Duty Balls
Regular duty balls are built for clay courts, and they have a few design features to make that possible. Since clay courts will absorb more of the ball’s impact when it bounces, there is less felt needed compared to heavy-duty balls.
These balls also avoid fluffing up and getting as heavy in adverse conditions. The clay can often get wet, and the balls get dirty as well. With less felt to cause a mess, it stays in great playing shape longer.
While they are technically for soft courts only, players can use them for hard indoor courts. Just keep in mind that they are likely not nearly as long-lasting as extra duty balls.
Special Balls For Special Occasions
There are some different types of balls out there for people who are not looking to play a traditional tennis match. Never show up for a real match with these balls, but they can be used for certain scenarios.
These are traditionally used for beginners or as practice balls. Instead of bouncing because of the air inside the ball, they are bouncing because of the rubber shell structure.
They will not lose bounce like a standard ball, and that makes them last a very long time. The drawback is that they are a little heavier, and harder to play with.
Manufacturers have made three different levels of balls for kids as they try to progress as a player. They start with Stage 3, also known as red balls. They are for players 10 years of age or younger, and they help with hitting balls with the proper form. They are meant to be used on 36-foot courts.
The Stage 2 ball is the orange ball for kids, and they are slightly reduced in flight as well. These are for slightly smaller courts as well, working the best on 60-foot courts. The game slows down a bit, and players can keep things going.
Finally, the Stage 1 green balls are for kids who are right on the verge of playing full tennis. They have a lower bounce that helps with technique, but they perform in a lot of similar ways. Some people will spend a little bit of time with these balls, while others will jump from the orange balls to tournament tennis balls.
A lot of manufacturers have a cheaper ball that will not have the same type of durability as the more expensive option. The expensive options are the same balls used at professional tournaments, and they will probably last a little bit longer. It really just depends on how much use a person wants to get out of balls at the end of the day.
There is very little variance in pricing for tennis balls in general because companies do not make a lot of money selling them. In fact, many local shops are making no money at all on tennis balls, and they are banking on other products to help make ends meet.
If you are on a budget, I listed some of the best cheap tennis balls in this post.
A Final Look At All Tennis Ball Options
Right now, the consensus seems to be that Pro Penn Marathon balls are the top choice at local clubs. Penn has poured a lot of money into growing their business and making the best ball possible.
However, that’s not to say everyone will love that ball. The reason why so many balls can co-exist is that people have their own personal preferences. Since balls are so inexpensive, sample as many of the 9 as possible to get a better understanding of the feel of them all.
Players go through a lot of tennis balls anyway, so this should not take too much time. Afterward, stick with what feels and performs best.
Other Tennis Balls I Recommend:
- Tennis Balls For Hard Surfaces
- Tennis Balls For Clay Courts
- Tennis Balls For Ball Machines
- Tennis Balls For Beginners