Why Do Tennis Balls Smell?

Whether you are a tennis professional or someone that recently played for the first time, you both have at least once asked yourself, why tennis balls smell so weird.

Some people think that it smells quite good, while others (like me) think it just smells weird. But, why do tennis balls smell that way? is there a specific reason for this or does it come naturally? That’s what we will go through in this post.

Why do tennis balls smell? New tennis balls smell due to the off-gassing of glue, rubber, and other chemicals that releases when opening a new can of balls. Chemicals are constantly released into the air from tennis balls and that is the reason why tennis balls smell.

Where The Smell Comes From

A tennis ball is made of many different materials such as rubber, glue, and others. This is together with the air, what makes the ball keep a good and consistent bounce. In order to keep all that in the tennis ball before using it, they are pressurized in a can. All the chemicals are trapped into the can, and when it opens, it will immediately release a ton of different chemicals into the air that makes it smell in a weird way.

Chemicals are not only released when opening the pressurized can. It releases all the time, especially in the beginning. As you may have recognized, the more you use a tennis ball, it will smell less and less. Which also is a good way to tell if a ball is new or old.

Many people buy a can of balls just for the sake o smelling on a new can of balls. This is quite weird, but as I said, some like the smell, while other doesn’t. You can compare the smell of a new can of balls, with a new car. It smells very weird, but it still smells good in a weird way. If you have bought a new car at least once in your life, you know exactly what I mean.

Why Do Tennis Player Smell Their Balls?

There are many reasons why tennis players smell on their balls and it’s very individual. However, these are the main reasons why some tennis players like to smell on their tennis balls.

First of all the most obvious one, is because it smells good. When something smells good and you have that in your hand, why shouldn’t you smell it? It’s definitely weird, but most people have something that smells a little weird that they like to smell on. For example, many people like the smell of flowers and oil, in the same way, some like to smell on tennis balls.

Secondly, what many people don’t think about is that it works as a ritual before serving or prior to a match. If you are into the tennis scene, you know that most pro players are obsessed with their rituals, especially before serving. You can read more about players serving rituals in this article. You can compare smelling on a tennis ball to players that blow on their hand before every point, I think that is just as weird as smelling on a tennis ball.

If you have watched Rafael Nadal play and know his rituals before and during points, you wouldn’t think smelling on a ball is weird. I get why players bounce the ball before serving and stuff like that, but the things that Nadal does, and other players that smell on a tennis ball to get ready for a point, is just weird.

Final Thoughts

Smelling on a new can of balls is something that most tennis player does or at least think about when opening a new can. But, you rarely think about why it’s smelling and where it comes from. So, it’s cool to know where this weird smelling is coming from.

Whether you are a person that likes the smell of a new tennis ball or not, you will most likely smell them. It’s quite weird, but It feels like a must thing to do. I have opened an endless amount of ball cans in my career and I can honestly say that I really don’t like the smell of a new tennis ball. But, although I don’t like the smell, I can still appreciate how weird the ball smells.

If I could choose to remove the smell of a tennis ball or keep it, I would keep it every day. It has become a tradition to smell on tennis balls and I think many players feel nostalgic about smelling on them. You smelled the same thing 10-15 years ago and can think back. A lot of things have probably changed during those years, but the smell of your tennis balls is still the same.

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