The Different Kinds of Tennis Balls Explained

The Different Kinds Of Tennis Balls Explained

There are dozens of combinations of various attributes that go into different tennis balls.

People just think, “Oh, those things that go on the bottom of school chairs,” but they’re not one dimensional.

With different felt options, pressurization and overall altitude adjustments, you have to make a distinct choice on what type of tennis ball you’re going to practice with.

You should get in the habit of using the same type of tennis ball time and time again.

Here, we’re going to break down what those different types are, and describe how they might work best for you depending on your tennis style.


Pressurized Tennis balls

Pressurized tennis balls don’t have the air on the inside of the rubber core.

Instead, there’s a gas, which is usually nitrogen for most US-made tennis balls.

Nitrogen is what gives it that pop, that crack when it hits the ground that keeps it bouncy.

Pressurized tennis balls are what they use in the pro circuit, and even recreational tennis players stick with pressurized balls.

They work better, they have more bounce to them, and they’re easier to track. You’ll know when these start degrading.

The problem is, if you split or damage the internal rubber core and that gas leaks out, the tennis ball will literally fall flat out of nowhere.


Pressureless Ball

Pressureless tennis balls don’t have any form of gas on the inside as pressurized tennis balls do.

Instead, they just have aired on the inside of the rubber ball core.

The reason for this is because they’re easier to manufacture, and can be used for practice sessions where you’re not actually going up against anybody.

If you wanted to fill a tennis ball machine, you would want to do it with pressureless balls for cost reasons and because they’re not going to bounce off the ground when they come at you (most of the time).

You don’t have to keep these in pressurized canisters, so you can just put them all in a big mesh bag and lug it around if you wish.

You can be more care-free with them, but don’t get too used to the feeling of pressureless balls; if you want to go against someone in a match or pursue an open, then you have to use pressurized balls.

Regular Duty

Regular Dutys

Regular duty tennis balls are just whatever the standard tennis ball is.

You might see these listed as normal or standard, but when you’re getting technical, they’re called regular duty.

These come pressurized and are equipped for official tennis use.

They’ll come in pressure canisters or large boxed packages, making purchasing easy.

Wilson’s regular duty balls are actually the exact ones that they use for the official US Open since they’re the most reliable and consistent.

The only thing is that regular duty tennis balls will wear down faster than heavy-duty, or in some cases even high altitude tennis balls.

They go through a lot of stress and pressure at normal elevations, and the rubber cores are made thinner than heavy-duty.

These are the tennis balls that are changed out every 7-11 matches in official tennis matches, so you can see how they’d begin to degrade after short-term use.

Buying these in bulk packages of 100+ balls is good if you’re going to play a lot of tennis this year.

These do not lose pressurization while in their canisters, even if they’re not being used for quite some time.

Heavy Duty

Heavy Duty Tennis Balls

The rubber core on the inside of the tennis ball is what gives it the bounce, while the gas located therein will create that popping sound and multiply that bounce.

Rubber is designed to bounce, to withstand vibrations like it’s nobody’s business, so the thicker core works to do that.

With all the pressure that a tennis ball faces, these thicker cores allow each individual tennis ball to last longer.

If they do incur damage, such as cracking or splitting, it’s much worse than with a regular duty tennis ball.

High Altitude

High Altitude Tennis

These are designed to last in spots above 4,000 feet above sea level where the air starts to thin out.

Special preservation methods have to be put into account to ensure the gas doesn’t escape out of these ball types, so the felt might be a little thinner, but the rubber core a bit thicker.

When oxygen thins out as the elevation spikes, it changes the way that gasses are treated in atmospheric pressure as well.

High altitude tennis balls don’t really have much of a price difference from standard or heavy-duty tennis balls, so you won’t run into any walls while picking them out.

They will still come in pressurized canisters.

You won’t be able to find unpressurized high altitude tennis balls, so there’s not much practice at elevated heights like this.

Are All Tennis Balls the Same?

Different Types of Tennis balls

Definitely not.

You don’t have a lot of different types to choose from, but they’re certainly not made the same.

Choosing between different grades of use is a big choice, and then you have colors and felt thickness to choose from.

The function is dictated by the rubber and the type of ball (pressurized vs unpressurized), but there are also some balls that simply contain aspects of preference.

For instance, Wilson is known for having a ton of different ball color options.

This applies to colorblind users, but it’s also just a nice way to inject some expression into your game.

There are only so many different ways that a tennis ball is made, so once you find what works for you, you’ll be good to go.

Some players actually find that they enjoy the high altitude balls on normal courts, and since they still contain gas, it’s an option if you want to explore that route.

Difference Between Practice Tennis Balls and Standard Ones

It all comes down to pressure due to gas in the rubber core.

There’s usually no difference between the rubber core, the felt, and the designs, the only thing that matters is the pressurization.

Practice balls are made the way they are for a reason, and that’s because unpressurized tennis balls are far cheaper than pressurized ones.

On average, you can get three to four unpressurized balls for the price of a single pressurized one.

Well, when you go to fill up a tennis ball machine with its 150 ball capacity, don’t you want to save money?

Yeah, you do; you use unpressurized tennis balls so you aren’t just blowing through a ton of cash.

The other main difference is longevity.

Practice tennis balls are going to last a lot longer than pressurized tennis balls, solely for the reason that they aren’t slowly losing trace amounts of a specific material that impacts their durability and usage.

In the professional circuit, every seven games, tennis balls are retired and replaced.

Pressure and longevity are your two main aspects that change.

What About Junior Tennis Balls?

Junior Tennis Ball

The science of mass and velocity gets too complicated to apply it to tennis and have it be worth your time.

Junior tennis balls are made smaller and with different gas contents in the pressurized versions because they need to contour to junior level players.

If you had a child who was about four feet tall, are you going to put them up against the same equipment and expectations of a six-foot-tall guy who’s used to playing against other players?

No, you’re going to scale the equipment down to their size, just like you do with junior tennis rackets.

Junior tennis balls usually just come in regular duty pressurized and regular duty unpressurized versions, because that’s all you really need.

Junior level games don’t go far beyond these requirements.

What About Speed Ratings?

Tennis Speed rating

Technically, there are 24 different ways to have a tennis ball, and part of that variable comes down to speed ratings.

These are set by the manufacturer and don’t have much forbearance on how you purchase tennis balls.

The main things you want to look at it pressure, duty, and some of the aesthetics; the “speed” rating doesn’t really matter.

It’s basically a metric that they use the duty, grade and gas to define anyway, but you don’t want to be blinded by this rating system.

Look for each individual attribute that we just listed to make an informed decision about purchasing and using tennis balls.

Your Equipment Matters

Now that you know the differences, it’s time to make your selection.

Different types of tennis balls will work for different player heights depending on pressurization, different felt is required for your preferred court style, and so on.

Remember that you only have so much life per tennis ball, so it’s important to have ample stock in a ratio to how often you play.

Find out how many tennis balls you should have by continuing our content here.

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