Tennis ball savers have been around for quite a long time to extend the life of those fuzzy yellow balls.
Most people are well aware that the shelf life for pressurized tennis balls is the greatest, but can a tennis ball saver help?
Are Tennis Ball Savers Worth the Hassle?
The short answer is that yes, tennis ball savers do indeed work. However, most players don’t bother investing in tennis ball savers because they feel it’s ultimately not worth the hassle.
They serve a purpose for training, helping players save money buying balls in bulk and using them for multiple sessions.
While they do help with the bounce, it doesn’t feel like new balls. Beginners won’t notice any difference, but more experienced players will.
It’s definitely worth a try, but don’t expect it to feel like you got a new can of balls every time you’ve used the tennis ball saver, because that is far from the truth.
There are some different options when it comes to tennis ball savers, from my own testing, this is the best version as of right now.
What Causes Tennis Balls to Age?
Any ball saver option helps out with limiting the loss of air pressure. What about everything else that causes tennis balls to become unusable? Even the best ball savers can’t help in these cases.
Tennis balls will start to fluff up if used too much. Hard court balls are more notorious for this, as they have a more vulnerable felt.
Clay court balls utilize different felt designed to not fluff up. However, both can have some issues that ultimately make the ball too fluffy to handle.
Once a ball becomes too moist, it is too heavy to play with. Rainy conditions obviously speed up balls collecting moisture. However, moisture can also start to build up if two players are sweating heavily. Handling the balls and having them stored in a pocket can add moisture without even realizing it.
Hard courts wear down tennis balls faster than clay courts. There’s a reason why hard court balls also go by extra duty balls. Clay court balls are regular duty, which ends up evening out the durability of the two types of balls overall.
Freshly resurfaced hard courts are a bit grittier than older courts. If the courts are acting slow, that means the court is gripping the ball longer. That also means the balls won’t last as long.
Using hard court balls on clay courts will cause them to fluff up prematurely. Using clay court balls on hard courts will reduce the playability of the balls significantly.
High-quality tennis players will wear out tennis balls much faster than those starting. Every time the ball is hit, it goes through some wear and tear. Naturally, the harder balls are hit, the more wear and tear each shot delivers.
How to Tell If a Ball Needs Replaced?
It’s pretty easy to tell if a ball is on its last legs. Run through a few simple tests, and it will confirm it’s time for a replacement.
Balls that aren’t bouncing as they should become more and more frustrating to hit with. Low bounces are tough to deal with, and it only gets worse as the ball ages.
While dealing with low bounces can be used as a training tool, it gets away from the common bounce of a tennis ball in general.
Hold the ball in hand and squeeze it. If the ball gives pretty easily, it’s way too flat to play with in any type of serious match.
To get a better idea of what a new ball feels like, squeeze them when they first open and try to remember that feeling.
Dead balls make a very distinct sound that seasoned tennis players know all too well. Instead of that clean, traditional popping sound, it’s more of a thud.
The felt of a tennis ball is likely going to hold up longer than everything else on the ball. That is unless the conditions are less than ideal.
Take a look at a tennis ball and see how the felt is performing. If there are any rips or tears, it’s not going to be able to work the way it should. Discoloration is fine, as long as it’s still uniform and performing well.
How Long are Tennis Balls Expected to Last at the Pro Level?
Pro tennis players are spoiled when it comes to new tennis balls. They are the best of the best, and they hit with so much power that balls can lose a lot of their pressure in just a few minutes.
To keep everything consistent, both men and women use new balls every nine games. At the beginning of the match, they switch after the first seven games, since those balls are used for a warm-up as well.
The standard protocol has a player serving with new balls for the first time to raise their hand and show their opposition. This acts as merely a reminder that new balls are in play, and therefore, the serve might come a little harder than in the previous games.
Can Balls in a Tennis Ball Saver be Used for Matches?
Any serious level of tennis will require a new can of balls to start a match. The relative cheapness of a can of balls is one of the main reasons why gently used tennis balls still don’t make the cut. They might have plenty of life left in them, but a full match requires balls to be as fresh as possible.
Keep in mind that at the professional level, they use new cans of balls after nine games. Amateurs tend to rely on one can of balls for the entire match, making them pretty worn out by the end of play. Starting with a brand new can of balls at least gives them their maximum lifespan.
How Wilson Hopes to Change the Game
Wilson released a new ball a couple of years ago called the Wilson Triniti. This ball is different from any other tennis ball ever created. The ball doesn’t come in a pressurized tube like all the other competitive balls out there. Instead, it has 100% recyclable packaging.
Using an Engage Core, it relies on a plasterer material that keeps a ball fresh up to four times longer than a standard core. They’ve also made improvements to the felt, making it more flexible and better feeling on all shots.
The most important thing for Wilson was to create a ball that could still be used at the highest levels. Wilson Triniti is approved for all types of play, which has been one of the best ways to get this up and going.
The balls do cost a little bit more, but there’s less of a need for ball savers. They work for matches or training, and players certainly feel like they have a performance ball (even if they do sound a little weird).
Final Thoughts on Ball Savers For Tennis
Ball savers are relatively inexpensive, and they do work for training purposes. If that’s the goal as a person tries to maximize the lifespan of a ball, make the investment.
Anyone trying to extend the life of gently used balls for actual matches probably won’t see a difference with a ball saver. Most opponents will still want to open a brand new can of balls instead. They do serve a purpose, but ball savers aren’t always worth the hassle.