The History of the Tennis Ball

It is debatable when the first tennis ball was ever used as the origins of tennis are somewhat grey.

But the first mentions of an actual ball being played with are in the 15th century and the spherical object being used was made up of all sorts of different materials including leather stuffed with human or horse hair.

Then in Scotland it was rumoured that a ball was constructed with a stomach of a sheep or goat tied with rope. Later on in the 18th century, strips of

wool were tightly wound round a cork core. This type of ball is still being used in the original game of tennis, known as Real Tennis.

In the 1870’s a revolution in ball construction came with the use of vulcanised rubber. And in Germany they took this further by filling the balls with air improving their bounce. The balls being used today are an extension of this prototype.

Today there are certain standards governing the manufacture of tennis balls and the most important are;

 

Types

Pressureless – these balls have solid cores, they don’t lose their bounce easily but the felt wears off much quicker.

Pressurised – have hollow cores and are filled with air or nitrogen. They are hermetically sealed and come in cans or plastic tubes. Once the containers are opened the balls will start to lose their bounce. All the major tournaments use these type of balls.

 

Special Types

Regular Duty – suitable for indoor and clay courts

Extra Duty – suitable for grass and concrete courts but when played on clay they become very fuzzy quickly.

High Altitude – used in countries with high altitude where a regular ball would bounce too high.

 

Standardisation

These are the regulations approved by the International Tennis Federation.

Size – the diameter of a tennis ball must be 6.35-6.86cm (2.5 – 2.7 inches)

Weight – must be between 56g – 59.5g (1.975 – 2.095 ounces)

Rebound Height – between 135-147cm (53-58 inches)

The major tournament balls are now yellow and not white and were introduced in 1972 having been proved to be easier to see.

All tennis balls parameters are tested at a temperature of 20C, a humidity of 60% and an atmospheric pressure 102 kPA.

 

World Facts

Around 300 Million balls are produced annually
There are more than 200 brands approved by the ITF
The most expensive part of the ball is the felt covering
The fastest speed of a ball recorded was 156 mph which was a serve hit by Croatian Ivo Karlovic.
Tennis balls become heavier in humidity

The transformation and metamorphosis of the humble tennis ball throughout the decades and centuries, has in itself transformed the game more than any other element or equipment.

The current ball is now standard across the board whether playing tournament or park tennis.

Who’d have thought that the good old tennis ball had such a rich history!

You should also know that we use modified tennis balls to help our younger learners get a good grasp of the game. Find out more in our page on Hot Shots Coaching for Kids.

If you are new to tennis and want to get expert coaching then why not join one of our groups, or if you prefer we can organise private coaching lessons.

For more information, speak to our friendly team today!