Tennis balls are an essential part of tennis practice, contributing greatly to gameplay and enjoyment. Choosing the right type of ball is crucial for playing well and having a good experience on the court. However, one aspect that often goes overlooked is the wear and tear of tennis balls. Knowing when to change tennis balls is important to maintain optimal performance.
When a tennis ball is hit and bounced, it undergoes wear and tear. The force with which the ball is hit impacts the rate of deterioration. Shots with spin, such as lift shots and slice shots, can cause significant damage to the ball. Despite this, tennis balls are designed to withstand the rigors of the game and actively participate in players’ success. After a good tennis match, it is common for players to throw used balls to the public as a souvenir.
Factors contributing to tennis ball wear and tear include the qualities of the ball and the materials it is made of. High-quality tennis balls are made of rubber and covered with natural felt. However, both materials gradually degrade over time. Rubber hardens, loses elasticity, and becomes soft and brittle. As soon as tennis balls are taken out of their pressurized cans, their durability begins to decline. Skilled players can wear out a set of balls, typically contained in cans of three or four, during a two-hour match. Average players may use the same balls for another match or practice session.
While playing with new balls all the time may not be necessary, it is also not advisable to play with very worn balls. The types of balls and various factors affecting their wear, such as pressure and altitude, should be considered. Pressurized balls are generally preferred and provide better playing performance. However, in high-altitude locations, playing with pressureless balls is more suitable. Pressureless balls are also suitable for beginners and children as they bounce slower and are easier to hit.
The playing surface also plays a significant role in how tennis balls wear over time. Hard courts, composed of asphalt painted with acrylic and sand, are the most damaging to tennis balls. The sand causes friction, leading to hair loss and visible marks on the court from the ball’s bounce. Clay courts, while less aggressive, can absorb water and make the game more challenging due to the increased weight of the ball.
Proper storage conditions also affect the performance and longevity of tennis balls. If the balls are still in good condition after a match, they can be stored in the same can for upcoming matches within the next week or two. However, for longer storage periods, storing them without pressure may cause them to become softer. Special canisters with a pump can be used to increase the pressure and store the balls for an extended period. Whether to invest in such a canister or purchase a new set of balls depends on individual preferences and needs.
Signs that it is time to change tennis balls include loss of bounce and pressure, flattened or inconsistent felt, visible damage or wear, a change in sound after impact, and decreased spin and control. These indicators suggest that the balls have deteriorated and should be replaced to maintain optimal gameplay quality.
Guidelines for replacing tennis balls vary depending on the level of play. In high-level competitions, such as professional tournaments, balls are changed frequently since even slight differences in ball condition can impact gameplay. For recreational and club play, frequent ball changes may not be necessary, but using the same balls for weeks is not advisable. Changing balls every 3-5 games is a good rule of thumb. In practice and training sessions, where repetitive strokes are often practiced, balls wear out quickly, and it is recommended to change them every 2-3 sessions. Training with balls in poor condition can hinder a player’s development as they do not offer a realistic playing experience.
In conclusion, knowing when to change tennis balls is crucial for maintaining optimal performance and enjoyable gameplay. Factors such as the type of ball, level of play, playing surface, and storage conditions all contribute to the wear and tear of tennis balls. By taking these factors into consideration and following guidelines for ball replacement, tennis players can ensure they have the best possible experience on the court.