How Long Do Tennis Balls Last?
We all love playing with a can of freshly opened tennis balls. The smell, the feel of the pristine felt and the crispness and responsiveness with which they ping off the racket is a tennis player’s joy!
It can also be nice to feel how pure the strike of the ball is when playing with a fresh set, as they tend to be more lively off the string bed, travelling through the air more quickly and taking more spin as they go. This can actually help you feel more confident on the court and thereby improve your game.
However, this crispness does not last forever unfortunately. Tennis balls will wear out (some much more quickly than others), leaving them feeling heavy and ‘dead’. They lose their responsiveness, go flat, do not bounce as high and go dull in colour. These worn down tennis balls tend to make their way to the coach’s basket, or even worse become a ball only fit for a dog!
Whilst all tennis balls will wear out eventually, there are some that will degrade more quickly than others. There are also some steps you can take to preserve your tennis balls and keep them fresher for longer, so you can benefit from that crisp feeling for many tennis sessions to come!
So, if you have ever wondered how long tennis balls actually last, what different types of tennis balls are out there and how you can actually prolong the life of your tennis balls, then you’ve come to the right place!
The Different Type of Tennis Balls
You may not even realise, but there is more than one type of tennis ball out there for you to buy. The most recognisable and widely used tennis balls are traditional yellow tennis balls. These themselves come in a range of designs, weights and have differing characteristics. Some are designed for endurance and are slightly heavier and durable, making them a little more demanding to play with.
These are ideal for playing on court surfaces that tend to chew up tennis balls and wear them down aggressively, like tarmac and clay courts. Whilst their performance will naturally last longer than regular duty balls, they may sacrifice some feel and playability in the process.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are high performance, lighter tennis balls that are designed to zip through the air and will bounce higher than heavier balls. These tend to be used on slower surfaces to counteract the court slowing the ball down, whereas heavier balls tend to be used on faster surfaces for the opposite reason.
At the recreational level however, you can pick and choose whichever tennis ball suits your game the best. You may also be using the same set of tennis balls to play on different court surfaces at your local club, so picking a solid all rounder that is not too heavy to play well with, but is durable enough to last at least a few sets could be the way to go.
So, we’ve established that the type of traditional yellow tennis ball you go for can alter how long the ball itself will last, but what about balls with different levels of pressure?
Pressurised Tennis Balls
These are the tennis balls we are all very aware of and see every time we step on to the court. Tennis balls are pressured to hold their shape and tightness throughout their life. However, the more they are used and the harder they are hit, the more quickly they will lose their pressure and take on that dreaded ‘dead’ feel.
There are also tennis balls that have deliberately low pressures, as they are designed to be more usable and aimed at youngsters. Red, orange and green felt tennis balls are ideal for kids learning the game, as they are much softer to play with, travel through the air less quickly and bounce lower than traditional tennis balls.
This means that younger players will have more time to prepare for their shots, can take a full swing through the ball and are better able to control the ball as they learn proper technique and footwork fundamentals.
What’s more, these softer balls have the added benefit of holding their lower level or pressure for a lot longer, meaning they will maintain their performance for a much longer period of time than traditional, highly pressurised yellow tennis balls.
Pressureless Tennis Balls
Conversely, we have pressureless tennis balls. These are specifically designed to be used for training and are not used in competitive settings. They tend to be much harder and more responsive on the first few hits than traditional pressurised tennis balls, as their outer felt and inner rubber core are significantly firmer to make up for the lack of pressure inside the ball.
However, whilst they will maintain their bounce much longer than pressurised tennis balls, they are naturally heavier and can be quite difficult to control.
How Do Tennis Balls Get Run Down?
So, you may be wondering how exactly tennis balls actually get run down in the first place? Is it simply the length of time they are used or how hard you hit them? Well, let’s find out!
The pressure of your tennis balls will tend to go down based on the speed with which you hit the ball and how long you are playing with them for. This is a relatively gradual process for the average club player and tends not to be impacted too much after just one session.
However, for professional players this can have a major impact on the life of the tennis ball. The pros hit the ball so hard that they can actually decrease the pressure significantly over a matter of games.
Naturally, playing with a more heavy duty tennis ball will tend to extend the life of the ball’s performance compared to a regular duty ball.
The wear of a tennis ball’s felt is where the signs of degradation are the most obvious. It is easy to tell when a ball is getting fluffed up and worn down, as the felt itself will start to fray and discolour.
This is not only impacted by the speed with which the ball is hit and how often the balls are used, but the abrasiveness of the court surface, the spin with which the ball is hit and the weather conditions all have a huge impact on how quickly the ball’s outer felt wears down.
For example, using a lighter, regular duty tennis ball on a clay court in even light rain will soon see the ball fluff up enormously! The pros will also look to use a ball with the least amount of felt fluff out of place, as this ball will tend to fly through the air more quickly and be more difficult to return.
So, How Long Do Tennis Balls Actually Last?
As we have mentioned, the exact duration of a tennis ball’s high performing life will depend on the type of ball being used, the court surface, weather conditions, how hard the ball is being hit and for how long. All of these factors can play into whether a tennis ball will last for a number of weeks or a number of hours!
However, from our experience we can say that in perfect conditions, most high quality tennis balls will retain their felt quality and pressurised state for at least a few hours of constant hitting.
This will of course depend on the level of play and the court surface, but if you are playing with a high level of intensity and are playing very frequently (at least a few times per week), you may be best of opting for a extra duty ball and it may well last you for a week’s worth of hitting sessions.
However, if you are playing a more relaxed game and are only playing once per week or so, even regular duty balls may well last you a couple of months before they really start to wear out.
So, you can see just how varied the life of a tennis ball can be!
Unfortunately, there is not really a straight answer to how long a tennis ball actually lasts in reality. There are too many variables to say that a certain type of ball will last for a certain number of hours, not least of which is the player using it!
There is a great degree of variation between tennis ball types, from pressurised to pressureless tennis balls and from extra duty to mini red balls. The main thing that needs to be determined is the right tennis ball for you, depending on the court surfaces you play on, how hard you hit the ball and with how much spin, how often you play and simply the tennis ball you like the most!
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