As technology has advanced, we’ve seen a revolution in the way sports are played simply because of changes being made to the ball. We’ve seen it happen in soccer and golf, and now we are seeing it in tennis as well. Tennis has long been a sport of tradition and etiquette, and it now also getting a taste of the new technology as racquets, balls, and footwear all changes in front of our very eyes. Due to all of these changes, we now have to take a closer look at the tennis balls before we decide to buy them. This guide will help you select a brand and type that is best suited to your needs. There are various factors, some important and some that are not-so-important, such as color, the type of surface you’ll be playing on, the level that you play at, your age, altitude, how often you play, and many more. We’ll take a look at some of those factors and then review the top ten for you!
Top Tennis Ball Comparison Chart
Ball Color and Experience Level
The first thing we’ll look at is color. Everyone knows that tennis balls are classically neon/yellow in color. This is the traditional look. To begin with, the only two colors approved for play are yellow and white. All others are not fit for official play. Now, there are some reasons, though, that you could play with a tennis ball that isn’t yellow. One of those reasons is just to be different, I suppose.
The other reason is that you are a junior or are training with a junior/learner. In this case, they have made tennis balls specifically for them. Red and yellow balls signify that a player is a beginner and that they are typically under ten years old. These balls are for smaller courts so that they player learns on scale. Orange balls are meant to be used on courts that are around 60 feet long, and they have reduced flight to help keep you in the court.
Tennis can be played on different types of surfaces, which can make choosing a tennis ball a little more difficult. There are three main types of surfaces that the game is played on: hard courts, clay, and grass. There are other types of surfaces, but for our purposes, we are just going to look at these four as they are the most well-known.
Grass has been, and always will be, associated with Wimbledon. Those Championships are played on grass, which makes it a unique event. Grass plays much quicker than any of the other types of surface that we are going to talk about because it gives off a low bounce, horizontal. As a result, points are often shorter, you don’t run as much, and you feel it more in your arms and elbows as a result. Look for extra duty balls to help sustain the continuous impact of the court.
Clay Courts are associated with the French Open and are very popular in Europe. This type of court causes a much higher bounce of the ball, which results in slower play than grass or hard courts. As a result, there is much more running involved because points last longer. There is much less opportunity to beat the opponent on the serve, which also contributes to more running. On clay courts, you should look for regular duty tennis balls. This type contains a felt that is thinner that lessens the amount of clay that is absorbed.
This is the type that you most often see, particularly in the United States and anywhere urban really. Hard courts are almost always covered by acrylic, but they can greatly differ from one to another due to the amount of sand added to the paint. This means that you can’t just go out and assume one court will play the same as the last. On hard courts, look for extra duty tennis balls. Extra duty felt will help the ball hold up better on the harder surface.
Before we go any further, we need to quickly talk about altitude and how it can affect the game. Playing at 4,000 feet or higher is considered to be “high altitude.” The reason this is significant is that this elevation causes pressurized balls (more on that later) to bounce much higher and move at a much faster rate of speed. There are high altitude balls that are made specifically to help make the game as close to normal as the game is at normal altitude levels.
Levels of Play and Quality
The level at which you play and the quality of the ball needed are very closely related to one another in tennis. There are three main levels of play: recreational, championship, and professional. Let’s take a look at each.
Recreational tennis balls are the most low-quality on the market. This doesn’t mean, however, that they are bad balls and should not be bought. These balls are much cheaper than other types, which is always a good selling point to point out. Recreational balls are meant for those people that are out to play the game for fun. They are just concerned with getting out and playing and doing so on a budget. This isn’t the only purpose for recreational balls, though. This category also includes practice. This is a wide-ranging subset to say the least, but it means that almost anyone will and can benefit from recreational-type tennis balls. For anyone that practices with a machine or wants to practice quite often with a friend, even if they are a higher level player, recreational balls are the way to go so that you protect your higher end stuff. Keep in mind that this type is not allowed in tournament play because the bounce has been taken out of them.
The championship level is the level at which you are playing in tournaments. This can be just about anyone, and it does not include professionals. This type is intended for league and tournament play, and it is a happy medium between recreational and professional tennis balls. This type is in the middle price-wise and it is also in the middle when it comes to its qualities. So, it will hold up slightly better than recreational balls, but it will fall short of professional ones.
Professional level balls are what we see the professionals using. While this may is the case, you can still buy this type of ball and use it. There are many tournaments and leagues that use this type as well, so it just depends on the rules and customs. These are made of the highest quality materials and are meant to have a very short amount of use. This means that you should not expect a professional level ball to last as long as a recreational ball. Some people would assume the more expensive, more professional ball would last longer, but that is not the case. The materials that are used give a premium level of play, but that comes at the cost of the materials being less forgiving of hard use.
To Pressurize or Not
Another factor that you’ll want to keep an eye out for is whether or not the ball is pressurized. Pressurized tennis balls are much more common in professional ranks. These are used in tournaments all over the world as a result. These balls use internalize air pressure that gives them a greater bounce, speed and spin when they come out of the can. But once out of the can, they begin to lose all of those properties. They lose it at such a rate that if they go unplayed with for two weeks, they are basically useless as the bounce is all but gone from them. Many pressurized balls are used for just one match, and then they are done.
Pressureless tennis balls are much more common in recreational circles. This type of ball get their bounce from the rubber shell exterior instead of the internal pressure that pressurized balls have. As a result, this type doesn’t lose its bounce. They actually end up gaining bounce as the felt begins to wear out. This means, of course, that they are more durable and capable of taking much more of a beating. However, some consider them to be heavier and harder to play with than pressurized balls and simply don’t like to use them. Like so much of tennis, it is really about feel when it comes to selecting what you need for your individual game.
Specialty Tennis Balls
Where once there was no market, there is now a swelling market full of competition to help remedy problems. The most common one is the ‘elbow ease’ tennis ball, but there are others as well. We’ll take a look at elbow ease and its importance before quickly looking over the other specialties you can find out there.
One of the major issues that happens to people who frequently play tennis is tennis elbow. While we won’t go into too much detail about tennis elbow itself, I’ll quickly summarize what it is so that we can all better understand why elbow ease tennis balls are now out there on the market. Tennis elbow is a condition in which the elbow is typically overworked in some fashion. Tennis elbow usually doesn’t set in all at once. Rather, it is a bunch of smaller injuries that add up over time. There are also some theories that the lighter-weighted tennis racquets of today are helping cause this sensation. The answer is still up in the air as to what is causing these injuries, but the market now has some choices for those in this predicament.
The idea behind the elbow relief tennis balls is to give the user more cushion that they usually get. As such, they are thinking that this could be the ticket to offset the popular low weighted racquets. Dunlop was seemingly the first company to try this by making an “Abzorber” ball. They claimed that they could reduce the impact on the arm by 15%. While that may seem like a small number to many, 15% could add up to be significantly safer on your arms and elbows that what you were going to have otherwise.
Longer Lasting Technology
Another new idea that is currently floating around is to change the core of the tennis ball so that the bounce of the ball will remain for longer. This would, obviously, allow you to use the tennis ball for a much longer period of time. This would be revolutionary if it truly took hold, but this seems more like a fad to me. As we talked about earlier, there are the three different levels of quality in tennis balls. And because of the way capitalism works, they are doing the very best that they possibly can on each level. Don’t believe for a second that Dunlop, for example, would hold out longevity just to try and prove a point. They wouldn’t want to risk their share in the market by having something inferior, so the rest of those companies wouldn’t do it, either.
Best Tennis Ball Reviews
It should come as no great surprise to see Penn on the top of the list, and I’d be surprised to see this as their last inclusion. This set of tennis balls comes in cans of three and this particular entry is ten cans total. This ball comes at a very reasonable price for what it is. It is approved for league play by the US Tennis Association, so you can even use them for tournaments and leagues. These tennis balls are also great for hard courts because they are extra duty, which means that they are made to withstand the beating from them. They also are made from natural rubber which is supposed to help reduce the shock to your joints. A great ball that is well worth a look!
Note: These balls are also available in larger bulk packs for more advanced players or tennis teams.
Wilson is another major player in the racquet sports industry, and they come in at number two with another extra duty offering. This will certainly help you out on hard courts where you need something tough to hold up throughout rough play. Just like the Wilson, these balls come in cans of three but also have bulk options that include dozens of cans. The price is slightly higher than Penn’s, but these are special because they are the official ball of the US Open. This means that you are going to be purchasing what the professionals use in one of their biggest tournaments of the year, and thus explains the price of this item. If you’re looking to be like the pros, this might be your answer!
Penn’s second offering on the list is much different than the first. This package would include a dozen tennis balls in a poly bag. These are fairly cheap compared to other balls, but they do have a specific purpose. The purpose of them is indicated by the “60” in the title. This indicates that they are for use on a 60-foot court, which is typically the size of a junior court. So these balls are meant to be using as learning balls. This doesn’t mean you can’t use them if that isn’t your purpose, but it is not recommended. They are also orange to help signify this. They have a low compression core, which means that you can’t really hit these as hard because they are meant for the smaller court and youth players!
Dunlop’s first entry onto the list is a little bit different than what we have seen so far because this is the first entry that is meant to be used on clay instead of a hard court. The Fort Clay tennis ball comes in a can of three at slightly higher cost per ball than anything we’ve seen so far, but that is due to them being made specifically for the clay court. It is an excellent selection for a player that likes to play with a lot of spins and it has an HD core that gives it more durability during tournament level play. They have even gone as far as to treat the cloth so that clay is repelled, which means your ball’s color does not change. This one is well worth a look for a clay court player!
You’re probably starting to get alarmed that just about everything is extra duty on the list but don’t worry! It is normal due to the fact that hard courts are the normal avenue of play. With this set, you get a case of 72 heavy duty balls all for a great price. They are made for both indoor and outdoor play, and they will last very well. Many long-time tennis players have claimed that these balls have double the lifespan of regular or light duty tennis balls, so this is definitely something to look at if you want something that will withstand the test of time and tough conditions. And with 72 balls, that ought to last a while for any purpose!
Wilson comes back on to the list this time with a ball that is clearly for all courts. It says so on the front of the packaging at the very beginning. As a result of this fact, it is meant for recreational players because it is just a pick up and play option. But this doesn’t mean they are poor quality! With this set, you get four balls for a reasonable price, and you can expect them to hold up for a decent amount of time. However, don’t be surprised if these don’t hold up as well on the hard courts- they just aren’t extra duty!
This is a stage three ball, which means that they are meant for use by players that are using a 36-foot court. This also accounts for the “36” in the name. You get a 12-pack of balls here for a reasonable price. These are meant to be used by very young kids who are just learning how to play the game. As a result, they are red and yellow, they bounce and fly much less (about 75%), and they are a little larger than normal tennis balls. They are also great for kids that are learning to play in driveways, so they should hold up reasonably well! These are meant to help kids learn to hit the ball the same way every time, so if that’s what you need, here it is!
Also, quite a few casual adult player use this ball since it does not leave marks on garage doors (at least that’s what a number of users report) and because they bounce less, they often work better for single player rebounding off a wall without the extreme velocity of a regular tennis ball bouncing back at you so often and quickly as would happen if you were playing alone against a wall.
Wilson’s next entry is one that is just meant for regular tennis use. It isn’t a heavy-duty ball, but it is still a great choice if you are just wanting to get something quickly for a very reasonable price. This package is just for one can of three balls, and is lighter than the heavy duty balls that are typically offered. That can be a problem, but not if you are a recreational player. These are worth the look if you just want a regular tennis ball!
Penn’s next offering is another great one that has been made to solve the problem of higher elevation. Rather than using the same ball as at normal altitude (thus throwing you off totally), they have developed this ball to make sure that the flight and bounce are as close as possible to normal altitudes. In addition to being made for high altitudes, these are also extra duty. So they should last quite a while on the hard courts at elevation for you! They come in a pack of three for a slightly higher than usual price, but you are paying for the altitude essentially!
Penn also rounds off the list with another extra duty offering that will help your wallet out on the hard courts. This package comes with three balls, but it is at quite a premium per ball. This is because of the titanium that they used, which is said to enhance the rubber core of the ball to allow for better durability without giving up anything in your play. It also has a thicker cover of felt to help with wear over time. These would be well worth the look if you really need something to hold up over time!