At any tennis facility, there are countless numbers of tennis balls around at any time. In fact, if a person wants to find a random tennis ball to pick up and use as a dog toy, chances are they can find one in seconds, and no one is going to complain.
The reason being is that new tennis balls are constantly being used in tennis. It doesn’t take long at all for tennis balls to age, as they are pretty fragile as far as balls are concerned.
Why exactly are new tennis balls important in tennis? Without new balls, the game becomes a lot harder to play. Balls don’t travel as fast or as far, impacting the game significantly. This can cause not only poor play but even injury, as players try to overcompensate by swinging harder and putting stress on their bodies.
Why Are New Tennis Balls Not Built For Longevity?
Tennis balls simply aren’t designed to last a long time. For starters, pressurized rubber balls with no valve to pump additional air in them when they are low have limited life. That means right after opening, they only have a limited life before they lose their playability.
That’s right, even a can of tennis balls that have never touched the court can become deadly if they are not in a pressurized container. That’s why it’s never recommended to open a can of tennis balls until right before playing. If a can purchased at a store feels like it is already open, don’t buy them. It’s going to lead to severe disappointment popping open the can and noticing the balls are flat.
Balls lose air pressure quickly due to hard-hitting as well. Even casual players can wear out tennis balls in a couple of hours. They are still going to work to a certain degree, but they won’t travel as fast as they should, and they won’t bounce that high either.
However, there are some tennis balls that last longer than others. I listed the most durable tennis balls in this post.
Why New Tennis Balls Are a Must For Matches
No matter what level of tennis a person plays, a new can of balls is a necessity. Without a new can of balls, the entire match is going to be much more sluggish. It can get expensive buying brand new balls all the time, but if that’s the case, only open a new can for matches. Afterward, collect those balls, and other balls, and use them for practice.
Most people are perfectly fine with practicing with balls that are brand new. They might not completely mimic match conditions, but they are still usable to a certain degree. It is also helpful in practice situations to have more than three balls in play at once. It means less collecting after missed shots, and the ability to toss aside balls that are too flat to even use for practice.
New Balls At The Professional Level
Tennis tournaments at the highest level only use new balls for a certain amount of games before they are put aside and switched out. Professionals hit the ball very hard, and having lively balls is what players are used to. If they played entire matches with the same balls, the final few games would be very sluggish.
Just about every professional tennis event uses new balls in the beginning and replaces them after the first seven games (the warm-up is considered to be the equivalent of two games). After that, replacement happens every nine games.
Some might believe that this is a bit excessive, but these are top-level players hitting the ball extremely hard. Court surfaces, specifically hard courts, are also a little bit rougher at the highest level. That gritty surface on a hard court can start to have an effect on the felt, which slows the ball down pretty noticeably.
The New Ball Advantage
When playing with new balls, they have their highest speed potential. This generally helps players with every single type of shot, but most notably on the serve. The newer the balls, the higher the percentage of games won by the server. This is especially true at the professional level, giving just a tiny advantage that pays off big time.
New balls also come off the string bed much cleaner, which gives players a good amount of precision. Once the ball starts to age, they can collect sweat, dirt, and more that alters the ball in unpredictable ways. It’s a problem that both players are forced to deal with, so there is no real advantage. Still, it’s a frustrating experience to play with balls that become difficult to handle in that regard.
The Fluff Factor
Many people cite the loss of air inside the ball as the main reason why new balls wear out so quickly. However, there is another factor that plays into things, and it’s the felt on the outside.
A brand new can of balls is relatively smooth, with minimal fluff. Once the ball is hit around, they fluff up just a little bit. Some balls from manufacturers fluff up faster than others. Hardcourt balls have more felt than clay court balls, but that is by design. A hard-court ball on clay court would pick up a lot of sweat and dirt, and also fluff up. That is why clay court balls are designed with a thinner layer of felt to cut that down as much as possible.
Advancements In Tennis Balls
Despite the lack of longevity, there has not been a lot of advancement with tennis balls over the years. It just goes to show how difficult it is to make a ball that performs well and also lasts a long time.
Perhaps the biggest advancement in recent memory has been the latest release from Wilson. Their Wilson Triniti balls are not only eco-friendly, but they have found a way to extend their liveliness up to four times more than standard tennis balls. They do feel a little bit different, but with all the benefits, I couldn’t recommend them more. If you are interested, you can check the current price on Amazon here.
How did they pull this off? The core of the tennis ball is made of a platformer material that weighs less than any tennis ball out there. That means they can make the wall thicker, keeping the ball filled with the right amount of pressure longer. The felt has also improved with flexibility, making it a ball to look out for in the future. It does cost a bit of a premium, and it’s still a bit too early to tell if it will be widely adopted or not.
You can read more about what tennis balls are made of in this post.
Buying New Balls In Bulk
Tennis players have learned that purchasing cans of balls in bulk are the cheapest and most convenient way to go. It’s an expense that no one particularly enjoys spending money on, so it’s better to buy at a slight discount than to be forced to buy at the pro shop near the courts. Those balls usually come with a premium, so try not to get stuck without any new balls there.
All in all, it just makes sense to play with new tennis balls every single session. Beginners might be able to get away with using the same balls for multiple sessions, but intermediate players and up don’t want to deal with dead balls.