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A standard green tennis ball

A tennis ball is a ball designed for the sport of tennis, approximately 6.7 cm (2.7 in.) in diameter and is usually green, but in recreational play can be virtually any colour. Tennis balls are covered in a fibrous fluffy felt which modifies their aerodynamic properties.



Shakespeare refers to this in Much Ado About Nothing (Act III, Scene II):

No, but the barber's man hath been seen with him,
and the old ornament of his cheek hath already stuffed tennis-balls.

In 1480, Louis XI of France forbade the filling of tennis balls with chalk, sand, sawdust, or earth, and stated that they were to be made of good leather well-stuffed with wool.[1] Other early tennis balls were made by Scottish craftsmen from a wool-wrapped stomach of a sheep or goat and tied with rope. Those recovered from the hammer-beam roof of Westminster Hall during a period of recent restoration were found to have been manufactured from a combination of putty and human hair, and were dated to the reign of Henry VIII. Other versions, using materials such as animal fur, rope made from animal intestines and muscles, and pine wood, were found in Scottish castles dating back to the 16th century. In the 18th century, ¾" strips of wool were wound tightly around a nucleus made by rolling a number of strips into a little ball. String was then tied in many directions around the ball and a white cloth covering sewn around the ball. This explains why modern rubber tennis balls still have a cloth covering (in the early days of lawn tennis, it proved quite difficult to get the cloth to adhere very well to the rubber). This type of cloth ball, with a cork core, is still used for the original game of tennis, today called real tennis. With the introduction of lawn tennis in the 1870s, vulcanized rubber was first used to manufacture balls, often in tubes of four with a package, but not with the name of the brand.

Pressure-less balls

Pressure-less balls usually have a stiffer, woodier feel than pressurized balls, and except for the Tretorn brand, do not bounce as high as brand new pressurized balls.[citation needed] Unlike pressurized balls, though, they do not lose bounce over time. In fact, they get bouncier as they get lighter, due to fuzz loss. The balder they get, the more their flight, bounce, and spin response changes from what you would expect of tennis balls.[2]


Tennis balls must conform to certain criteria for size, weight, deformation, and bounce criteria to be approved for regulation play. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) defines the official diameter as 65.41-68.58 mm (2.575-2.700 inches). Balls must weigh between 56.0g and 59.4g (1.975-2.095 ounces). Yellow and white are the only colours approved by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and ITF, and most balls produced are fluorescent yellow (known as "optic yellow") the colour first being introduced in 1972 following research demonstrating they were more visible on television. Tennis balls are filled with air and are surfaced by a uniform felt- covered rubber compound. The felt traps the air flow boundary layer which reduces aerodynamic drag and gives the ball better flight properties. [3] [4]

Often the balls will have a number on them in addition to the brand name. This helps distinguish one set of balls from another of the same brand on an adjacent court.[5][6]

Tennis balls begin to lose their bounce as soon as the tennis ball can is opened and can be tested to determine their bounce. A ball is tested for bounce by dropping it from a height of 100 inches (2.5 m) onto concrete; a bounce between 53 and 58 inches (1.35 - 1.47 m) is acceptable (if taking place at sea-level and 20°C / 68°F; high-altitude balls have different characteristics when tested at sea-level). Modern regulation tennis balls are kept under pressure (approximately two atmospheres) until initially used.


Each year approximately 300 million balls are produced, which contributes roughly 14,700 metric tons of waste in the form of rubber that is not easily biodegradable. Historically, tennis ball recycling has not existed and the most common use has been to cut a hole in the ball and attach the ball to the bottom of chairs in schools, nursing homes and the like to prevent scuffing or scraping the floor.[citation needed] Balls from The Championships, Wimbledon are now recycled to provide field homes for the nationally threatened harvest mouse.[7]

Slower Balls

The ITF Play and Stay campaign [8] aims to increase tennis participation worldwide, by improving the way starter players are introduced to the game. The campaign promotes the use of slower red, orange and green-yellow balls,which are usually called Spongebob balls, that give players more time and control so that they can serve, rally and score (play the game) from the first lesson.[8]

By using slower balls the starter players have more time and more control to make the game more fun for them at the introductory stage. The ITF Intro to Tennis Task Force recommends the red, orange, green progression for starter players.[8] This progression focuses on a range of slower balls and court sizes to introduce the game effectively to both adults and children.

Using these slower balls will help the players to develop the most efficient technique and to be able to implement tactical situations in matches that, in most cases, could not be performed using the normal ball on a full court.

The ITF recommends that, except for exceptional players, all players aged 10 and under should use a slower red, orange or green ball in training and competition.[8]

Other Uses

Other games such as matkot, Irish handball, non-professional hurling and two square use this ball. It is also popularly used in the sub continent for cricket due to its good bounce. Tape ball is a variation of cricket that uses a tennis ball wrapped in electrical tape. In Canada, tennis balls are often used to play street hockey.

Another popular use of the tennis ball is as a dog toy during a game of fetch. Also many public schools utilize old, used tennis balls as a cushion for each chair leg of the students chairs and desks. This is a great way to prevent scuffing up floors and extends the useful life of the tennis ball. Tennis balls can also be used to make juggling clubs.

Tennis ball in literature

The gift of tennis balls offered to Henry in Shakespeare's Henry V is portrayed as the final insult which re-ignites the Hundred Years' War between England and France.

When we have match'd our rackets to these balls,

We will, in France, by God's grace, play a set

John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi

We are merely the stars' tennis balls, struck and banded

Which way please them


  1. ^ Morgan, Roger (1995): Tennis, The Development of The European Ball Game, ISBN 0-9501251 7–1
  2. ^ Are pressure-less tennis balls as good as regular, pressurized balls?, Jeff Cooper,
  3. ^ "Golf Balls, Cricket Balls and Tennis Balls". Princeton University. 05 October 2005. Retrieved 2009-10-20. 
  4. ^ Dr. Rabi Mehta of NASA-Ames, entitled Aerodynamics of sportsballs, Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics, 17:151--189, 1985.
  5. ^ What do the numbers on tennis balls mean and stand for?, Yahoo! Answers
  6. ^ Why are tennis balls numbered?, Jeff Cooper,
  7. ^ "New balls, please" for mice homes
  8. ^ a b c d International Tennis Federation
  • A Roberts Brokaw LLC Company

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