Lawn tennis is one of the most popular outdoor games all around the world. Modern-day tennis was invented between 1859 to 1865. The word “Tennis” comes from the Anglo-Norman term “Tenez.” According to sports historians, a British army officer, Walter Clopton Wingfield, is credited as the developer of the modern-day tennis game. If you are a geek like me, you’d like to know every little detail about the game. Now, as a tennis enthusiast, you must have thought of the origin of the game and the ball. In this blog, I’ll try to answer all you ever wanted to know about tennis balls.
The first tennis ball dated back as early as the fifteenth century and was made of animal leather filled with a horse or human hair or wool. The Scottish ball makers used the stomach of a goat or sheep to wrap with yarn and tied with threads. In the late 18th century, makers tightly tied strips of wool around a cork-made nucleus. Tennis balls with a cork as the nucleus and cloth covering are still used in the game of tennis, known as Real Tennis.
In the year 1870, vulcanized rubber was first used to make tennis balls. The Germans were very efficient in making vulcanized air-filled rubber tennis balls. Manufacturers made constant research and improvements to the ball by wrapping flannel around its surfaces and later using felt as the exterior cover. Pressurized tennis balls with felt covers are being used today.
How is a Tennis Ball made?
Tennis balls are made of good quality rubber core that is hollowed out. Mostly, the rubber comes from south Asian countries. The rubber is kneaded and prepped or moulded into a semi-circular half shell before going through the heating procedure.
There are, in fact, three curing and heating processes before shells are combined into the shape of a ball with a pressurized hollow inside.
The ball goes through several more procedures, similar to sandpapering before these are covered in solid glue and wool and/or felt, known as the ball’s nap. This cover can also be made of synthetic materials.
Seams are added after that, and the ball goes through a smoothening and then a steaming process for the bounce. The brand name is added before being inspected, kept in pressurized cans, and transported for sale.
It is the pressurized core of the ball that gives the bounce. Tennis balls should bounce adequately on all surfaces of a tennis court, including clay, cement, sand, or grass. If a ball does not bounce properly, it is known as a dead or a flat ball.
In professional tennis tournaments, the Association for tennis professionals, balls are replaced after every set due to the players’ power. In amateur tennis with non-professional players, three tennis balls should last at least two matches. We say three tennis balls as three balls are used on a court, at the same time.
Types of Balls
From the inception of this game till now, Lots of researches have been going on with tennis balls. Nowadays, there are at least five kinds of tennis balls available in the market. Each of them serves different purposes for the game.
- Pressureless: Pressureless tennis balls have solid cores and are more durable than pressurized ones. They don’t lose their bounce after a game, but the drawback is that the felt wears off much faster than pressurized balls. Since these balls don’t need to be pressurized, they come in regular bags or nets.
- Pressurized: Pressurized tennis balls have an empty core filled with nitrogen or air. They are completely sealed and come in air-tight plastic tubes or tin cans of four or five balls. Once the tin can is opened, the balls start to lose their bouncy effect. When new, these balls bounce higher than solid balls but don’t last as long. For all their events, the Association for tennis professionals and Women’s Tennis Association use pressurized tennis balls for their tournaments.
Special tennis balls
- Regular duty: These balls are suitable for clay courts and indoor. These balls are for amateur or junior players. They don’t last long.
- Extra duty: These are ideal for concrete and grass courts; when used on clay courts, they quickly become too humid and fuzzy to play well. These balls are not used in international matches.
- High Altitude Balls: These are used in high altitude regions, where regular balls would have a greater bounce. These balls are made for high-altitude zones. So that the players have better control over the ball.
The qualities of a tennis ball
- A good bounce is significant for the game. The ball should be bouncy and with a better grip over the surface.
- A good fuzz ensures that the ball lasts longer. However, in professional games, the ball is changed after every set to provide a smooth playing experience.
- The seam plays an essential part for the ball. It needs to be visible for the players.
- A ball must cater to all kinds of players. Manufacturers make balls keeping every type of player in mind. Be it a mature game or a professional one, the ball should work correctly for both.
- Another essential feature of a good and reliable tennis ball is durability.
- Last but not least, a ball should be value for money, as in it should last for at least three to four matches before going flat or ‘dying.’
- Whether it is a national or international tournament, all the balls used in a professional match must be authorized by the International Tennis Federation.
How to choose tennis balls
I suggest you start with regular tennis balls and don’t even think of getting an expensive ball. If you are beginning to play, I’d recommend you to get an inexpensive ball. And when you get professional, then only choose a better brand for your practice games.
If you or your friends love to play tennis regularly, then you should get better quality tennis balls as you go along and improve your skills.
You’d never want to play with the artificial balls as they do not give you any bounce and will break open after a few powerful shots. Buy medium-quality tennis balls for your starting days and try hard not to hit them over the fence.
I’d suggest you go for a brand that makes durable balls in the beginning.
If you play tennis for long, you most likely know what it feels like to hit a dead ball.
Trivial facts always make us excited and feel more connected about the game, let’s get to know some brilliant points about tennis balls:
- Believe it or not, around 300 million tennis balls are produced every year all around the world.
- In earlier days, tennis balls were white. But yellow tennis balls were first used at Wimbledon in 1986, replacing the white ball. Yellow balls are more visible than white balls.
- There are more than 200 brands that make tennis balls that the International Tennis Federation has approved.
- The felt cover of the tennis ball is the most expensive material used while manufacturing one.
- The fastest recorded speed of a tennis ball in an international tennis match was 156 mph or 251 km, and it was a serve hit by Croatian player Ivo Karlovic. The fastest ever women’s serve was hit by Venus Williams at 127.4 mph or 205 kmph.
- Tennis balls become heavier when the air is more humid. As a result, they travel slower than usual through the air. So, it would help if you put more effort while playing on a grass court.
- You could fit 290 million balls into the iconic Centre Court at Wimbledon Arena with the roof closed.
- Players used 54,250 tennis balls during Wimbledon 2010
- Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia are the top most tennis-ball producing countries
Specifications of a Tennis Ball
Tennis balls must follow the specifications as per the rules of the International Tennis Federation. These include:
- The weight of the tennis ball must be between 56 grams and 59.4 grams.
- The size of the ball must be 6.35 to 6.86 cm in diameter.
- The rebound height must be between 135 to 147 centimetres.
Tennis balls must be tested under certain conditions, including:
- A temperature of 68° Fahrenheit or 20° Celsius.
- The humidity of 60%
- The atmospheric pressure of 102 kPA.
The most well-known tennis ball brands are Dunlop, Wilson, Babolat, Penn Penn, Head, Slazenger, prince, etc.
Tennis is a game of excitement. Players running around the court, serving and hitting back the ball as hard as they can, rush adrenaline through our veins. Whether you are a tennis enthusiast like me or directly involved in playing, learning these facts mentioned above is fun. Learn more about your favourite sports, and feel more connected to them. With the grand-slam season just starting, let’s watch the games of our favourite players with these incredible facts in mind.