How to choose the right tennis ball to suit your game
You may think that all tennis balls are the same but, boy, would you be wrong. Olivia Blake says that the balls you choose to use can make a big difference to your performance on the court, with different options offering different qualities depending on their brand or quality.
Whether it be for recreational use or professional play, it’s not just the type of court that alters your quality. Choosing the right tennis ball is arguably as important, with many different attributes to consider.
So, how can you make sure you are using the right type of ball? Our handy guide is here to help.
Tennis balls are manufactured by a number of brands, predominantly in the USA and Europe. Of these brands, well-known companies such as Wilson, Slazenger, Dunlop and Penn produce various types of balls to suit various surfaces and levels of experience. Choosing a premium brand of tennis ball can make a big impact, as you can feel rest assured that the balls have been produced at a high quality.
Unfortunately, the colour choice for tennis balls is fairly limited. The standard colour, as I’m sure you know already, is yellow, as decreed by The Tennis Federation. This is due to it being a colour that is clearly visible to players and spectators alike.
Tennis balls often come as one of four main types. These include:
- Type 1 (designed for use on fast surfaces, such as grass)
- Type 2 (designed for use on standard-speed surfaces, such as hard courts)
- Type 3 (designed for use on slower surfaces, such as clay)
- High altitude (designed to create a higher bounce and travel faster)
As you can see, each type of ball is designed for use on specific court surfaces. But, it’s not just as simple as that. The ATP Official Rulebook clarifies certain size and weight restrictions for each type of tennis ball produced, which you can see for yourself below:
|Type 1 (Fast)||Type 2 (Medium)||Type 3 (Slow)||High Altitude|
|Mass||56.0 – 59.4 g||56.0 – 59.4 g||56.0 – 59.4 g||56.0 – 59.4 g|
|Size||6.54 – 6.68 cm||6.54 – 6.68 cm||7.00 – 7.30 cm||6.54 – 6.68 cm|
|Rebound||138 – 151 cm||135 – 147 cm||135 – 147 cm||122 – 135 cm|
|Forward Deformation||0.56 – 0.74 cm||0.56 – 0.74 cm||0.56 – 0.74 cm||0.56 – 0.74 cm|
|Return Deformation||0.74 – 1.08 cm||0.80 – 1.08 cm||0.80 – 1.08 cm||0.80 – 1.08 cm|
To make the choice even confusing, each type of tennis ball is manufactured to meet three different levels of quality. These include:
The choice you make will depend on your level of experience and what you are wanting to use the balls for. If you’re looking for a slightly cheaper ball that you can use for a practice match, or if you’re fairly new to the game, go for recreational. If you’re looking for more of an intermediate ball, having played the game for a while, go for championship. If you’re an expert at the game and are looking for a ball that offers more precision, control and power, go for professional.
Pressurised vs. non-pressurised
Another choice to consider is whether you want your balls to be pressurised or not. The majority of balls in use today are pressurised, with the main advantages being that they give more bounce, speed and spin. Their only downside is that their use tends to fade over time, meaning you have to replace them after a while.
Non-pressurised tennis balls avoid this issue though, bouncing on their outer rubber shells rather than relying on a pressurised interior. They tend to last longer as well (unless you lose them or your dog chews them to pieces) and will gain more resilience the more they’re used.
Extra duty vs. regular duty
Yet another attribute you will need to consider is the thickness of felt covering that surrounds the ball, often known as its duty. Extra duty balls tend to be thicker, whereas regular duty tend to be, well, regular.
The choice you make largely depends on the court’s surface, with a different thickness offering a potential advantage to your play. In essence, extra duty balls tend to be better for harder, faster surfaces, whereas regular duty balls give more of an advantage on slower courts.
The tennis balls we’ve been talking about here have been largely aimed at adults, but what about kids just starting out? While faster balls may be better suited to the adult game, younger kids may not be able to keep up with the pace, so slower-moving balls are a better option.
There are four different types of these, each with a unique colour, aimed at particular stages of children’s development:
- Stage 3 (Red) Foam Ball
- Stage 3 (Red) Standard Ball
- Stage 2 (Orange) Standard Ball
- Stage 1 (Green) Standard Ball
As with adult tennis balls, the International Tennis Federation again specify certain weight and dimension restrictions for each ball stage. These can be seen below:
|Stage 1 (Green) Standard||Stage 2 (Orange) Standard||Stage 3 (Red) Standard||Stage 3 (Red) Foam|
|Mass||47.0 – 51.5 g||36.0 – 46.9 g||36.0 – 46.9 g||25.0 – 43.0 g|
|Size||6.30 – 6.86 cm||6.30 – 6.86 cm||7.00 – 8.00 cm||8.00 – 9.00 cm|
|Rebound||120 – 135 cm||105 – 120 cm||90 – 105 cm||85 – 105 cm|
|Forward Deformation||0.80 – 1.05 cm||1.40 – 1.65 cm||–||–|
The tennis balls you choose to use can have a big impact on your quality of play. Whether it be extra duty or regular duty, non-pressurised or pressurised, it’s important to take your time when deciding which type is right for you.
It’s also important to make sure you think about the type of court surface you want it for, which brand manufactured the balls, and the level of prior tennis experience you have. Deciding on the right ball with these factors in mind can make a big difference to your game, and can help take your tennis to the next level.
If you can’t visit the tournaments you love then do the next best thing and read our guide on how to watch all the ATP Tour matches on television in 2019