What Are Pressureless Tennis Balls?

If you’ve ever cut open a tennis ball to stick it on the end of a classroom chair or seen your dog chew their tennis ball apart, you’ll know that tennis balls are hollow. But as it turns out, there are some kinds of tennis balls that have a solid core.

These not-hollow tennis balls are called pressureless tennis balls, and they have a few key differences when compared to a “normal” (aka pressurized) tennis ball.

What are pressureless tennis balls? Pressureless tennis balls are tennis balls that have a rigid outer rubber structure and an internal rubber ball. If you were to cut a pressureless tennis ball in half, you would see a secondary ball that acts as a solid rubber core.

Breaking Down How Tennis Balls Work

When you pick up a pressurized tennis ball, you can think of it in terms of a basketball or soccer ball. It is a sphere that’s filled with enough air to create the correct internal pressure so that it will perform as intended. However, unlike a basketball or soccer ball, you can’t put a needle into a pressurized tennis ball and get it back to its best state.

There are some devices that can keep tennis balls at a sustained pressure for over two weeks and repressurize them, but most players won’t have the time or inclination to marinate their tennis balls. 

Since pressurized tennis balls frequently come in packs of three, once you open that pressurized canister, they all begin to leak. That air seeps away even when you’re not using them, so they lose their utility over time. A tennis ball saver can help lengthen their life, but generally, once a pressurized tennis ball has lost its bounce, it’s time to give it to the dog to play with.

Pressureless tennis balls, on the other hand, don’t have this problem. What provides the bounce is that internal structure, and since it’s just a hunk of rubber, it isn’t going to leak out anywhere. This construction is analogous to a baseball or softball. This means that pressureless tennis balls will last longer, making them great for casual players.

How To Tell Them Apart

Let’s take a look at the ways you can see and feel the differences between the two types of balls. 

The Fine Print

Since the two types look similar on the outside—fuzzy and yellow—you might wonder how to know what you’re hitting. It’s not like you can cut them open to peak inside before playing with them. That would thoroughly defeat the purpose, and you’d probably get escorted off of the court.

Tretorn Micro-X is a popular brand of pressureless tennis balls, and they are stamped with a big X on the side. It’s a quick visual cue that you can use to make sure that you’re using the type of ball you want to use. 

Other brands have “pressureless” printed on them, but the writing might be smaller, so you’ll have to look a little closer.

The Bounce

If you have two brand-new balls, you’ll be able to notice some differences between them when you hit them. Pressurized tennis balls are zippy and bouncy right out of the pack. This is when they’re at their best, and you’ll notice a much higher bounce compared to a pressureless tennis ball.

However, pressureless tennis balls excel where their pressurized counterparts fall short. The more you hit a pressureless tennis ball, the bouncier it becomes. This happens as the material inside the ball relaxes and softens with use.

Who Should Use a Pressureless Tennis Ball?

The two key selling points of pressureless tennis balls are that they’re durable and long-lasting. If you’re playing tennis infrequently, pressureless tennis balls help ensure that you don’t end up hitting dead balls with no bounce. Additionally, if you’re dumping buckets of balls into a ball machine, you might want to go with a pressureless ball.

Tennis ball machines are a great tool to use in practice, but they can be pretty tough on the tennis balls. Going for a more durable ball in the machine will help save your pressurized tennis balls from getting banged up as they go through the hopper.

We listed our pressureless tennis balls recommendations in this post.

Practicing With Both Balls

If you’re competing in a tennis match at any level, you’ll be using pressurized tennis balls. In tournament play, new balls are used, so you’ll get the ball at its peak performance. 

All balls used in tournament play are inspected and approved by the tournament organizers, and in some cases, local conditions are taken into account. For example, in the 2021 WTA Finals in Guadalajara, which is 5,000 feet above sea level, the tournament provided high-altitude tennis balls made by Wilson Tennis.

So if you’re going to use pressureless balls in some of your practice sessions or hit them from a machine, it’s critical that you spend time playing with pressurized tennis balls, as well. Players shouldn’t get used to only playing with pressureless tennis balls, as that would be a disservice to their game when they get into a competition.

The two types of balls do hit differently, with pressureless balls having less bounce at first. But as time goes on, they can actually have more bounce than a pressurized ball. If you’re serious about tennis, make sure that you get some time on the court where you’re replicating your competition environment as much as possible.

Also, pressureless tennis balls are heavier than pressurized tennis balls. You likely won’t feel it if you hold one type in each hand, but if you hit exclusively pressureless tennis balls and you play a lot, you’ll have more impact forces on your body. That will eventually compound and could cause injury. Therefore, switching out the types of balls you’re using will help keep your body in good shape over the long term.

Cost Considerations

Pressureless tennis balls are definitely more cost effective than pressurized tennis balls. They have a lower sticker price, and they last longer. This means you’ll get more bang for your buck with a pressureless tennis ball. That’s why they’re great for practice sessions and for those who only play a couple of times a month.

They’re also great if you’ve got a dog who loves tennis balls but consistently tears them apart or pops them. Whether you buy tennis balls specifically for Fido or just give him the ones that aren’t good enough for tennis anymore, pressureless tennis balls won’t come apart as easily, which means your dog will get even more enjoyment out of them.

Conclusion

Pressureless tennis balls are a great tool for tennis players at all levels. Casual players will enjoy them for their lower cost and increased longevity. 

Players who are looking to compete can use them in their ball machines and rotate them into their practices in order to save their pressurized tennis balls. 

Pressureless tennis balls get better with time and have a great bounce, but if you’re serious about tennis, don’t use pressureless tennis balls exclusively. Put them into your practice rotation with your pressurized balls so that you stay prepared for competition environments.

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