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Choosing the Right Tennis Ball – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 169

By Kselz @TennisFixation

It's October and that means it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month and for tennis that means - pink balls! Yes, you may be seeing pink balls on the shelves of your favorite sporting goods store. And while, they're cute, are they appropriate to use in your next tennis match? In this episode, I'm talking about how to choose the right tennis ball. There's more to it than you think! You can listen to this episode by clicking on the media player in this post or by listening in with your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe in iTunes by clicking on this link:

Choosing the Right Tennis Ball – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 169


It's October and, here in the United States, it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. During this month, we see all things pink to bring breast cancer front of mind. And sometimes, when you purchase these pink items, the manufacturer or retailer will make a donation to some breast cancer charity. Not EVERY pink item results in a donation, so check up on that if you care, but some do.

One of the things you might see this month is pink tennis balls. And that's why I was not the least bit surprised when I got this question from a Tennis Quick Tips listener. Cherie asks:

So what's up with pink and orange tennis balls? Are they just as good as the yellow ones?

Cherie, this is a great question. I know a lot of my listeners are experienced players who might think this is a basic, beginner type question and they're not interested in hearing the answer to. And if that's you, feel free to skip this episode. But Cherie, I think this is a great question because there's more to the tennis ball issue than you think.

The Difference Between Regular-Duty and Extra-Duty Tennis Balls

The first thing you need to know about tennis balls is that you need to be using the right kind of balls for the court you are playing on. Yes, there are different balls that are used on different court surfaces.

So I did a whole episode on tennis balls, way back in Episode 38, called What Kind of Tennis Balls Should I Use? In that episode, I explained the difference between "regular-duty" or soft court balls, and "extra-duty" or hard court balls. Regular-duty balls are for use on clay courts. They have a less fuzzy covering on them so that they won't pick up as much clay and become too heavy. Extra-duty balls are for hard courts. Their outer covering is thicker and fuzzier so that they'll last longer on hard courts.

So, if you play on clay a lot, you should be using regular-duty balls as they should perform better and last a little longer. And if you play on hard courts or grass a lot, the extra-duty balls would be preferable, not only because they will have a longer life, but that extra fuzz may help a tiny bit with increasing the spin you can put on the ball.

You should also be aware that, if you're playing league tennis or in a tournament, I'm 99 percent certain you will have a rule telling you what kind of ball you need to use to play. And if you show up with the wrong kind of ball, I'm 99 percent certain someone will go to a league or tournament official and complain about you having the wrong kind of ball. So be sure you know the rules on balls for your league or tournament. In fact, know all of the rules for your league or tournament.

And how can you make sure you're using the right kind of balls? Easy - just look at the can! It's written right on there. But if you're somehow playing with balls that are not in the can, because maybe your opponent took them out of the can already and you don't want to be rude or weird and ask to look at the can, just look at the brand name printed on the ball. Regular-duty balls will have the brand name printed in red, like red clay, while extra-duty balls will have the brand name printed in black. So there's some useful trivia for you!

Choosing the Right Tennis Ball – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 169Extra-duty tennis
balls - it's right on the can!

What Color of Tennis Ball Should I Use?

Now, let's get to Cherie's question and talk about the color of the ball. As you all know, the vast majority of balls you see and can easily purchase are yellow. And not just yellow, optic yellow. You may remember that there was a time when balls were white. But back in 1972, the International Tennis Federation, the ITF, introduced optic yellow balls and made them acceptable for tennis play. The reason for this color change was because these bright yellow balls were easier to see on television and tennis had become a televised sport. And, just to give you some more interesting tennis ball trivia, while everyone else was on board with the optic yellow tennis ball, Wimbledon stuck with the white ball for another 14 years, approving the optic yellow tennis ball in 1986. If you're really interested in the history of the tennis ball, I'll link an article all about it from the ITF's website.

While the yellow tennis ball is pretty much everywhere, you will see other colors of balls out there. The pink tennis ball, for example. This is also pretty easy to find, and is very cute in my opinion. I've seen purple balls that show up on occasion and even leopard print balls, all of which are super cute. But these are what I would consider novelty balls. Cute but unacceptable for serious play. I would use these in a fun match with friends or in a "desperate times call for desperate measures" situation. But I would definitely not pull out my pink balls for a league match or for a tournament. I promise you, someone will be upset and will report you to the appropriate official if you show up with a can of pink balls and you think that's what you're going to play with.

Now, before we get off this colored ball thing, let me also point out the one other kind of colored tennis ball you may have seen. And these may be what Cherie is referring to when she asks about orange balls. The balls I'm talking about are the red, orange and green dot balls that are now being used with junior players and even with some adult beginners who are just learning the game. These balls are becoming more and more available and you can find them in most sporting goods stores and even big box stores, like WalMart.

While these balls are not something you're going to use in your own match play, junior players are using them in some of their matches. And while these balls may look like standard tennis balls, sort of, they behave much differently. The red balls, for example, have only 25% of the pressure of a standard ball. So they bounce a lot less and move a lot slower. The orange ball has 50% of the pressure and the green dot ball has 75%. This obviously allows players using these balls to keep them much more under control since they don't go flying off as easily as a standard ball. And these types of balls are much more likely to bounce into the strike zone of smaller, junior level players.

So this may be what Cherie is asking about when she refers to orange balls. And the obvious answer is - these balls would not be appropriate for play in a league match or a tournament. And you probably wouldn't use them in a fun match for friends since they are so far from the reality of a regular tennis ball.

But I will say this about these junior balls - I have played with them in drills before where we played several different games using orange balls and they are a lot of fun. Because they move slower and have less bounce, you have more time to think and get to the ball. Plus, it's really hard to hit these things out. So they are great to use when you want to keep rallies going and want players to really figure out how to get the ball away from their opponent. That's just my little plug for using these colored balls with adults.

So there's your answer Cherie - the pink and orange balls are out there are they're fun but you probably want to stick with the optic yellow balls, especially if you're playing in a league match or tournament.

That's it for this week's Tennis Quick Tip. Be sure and check out the show notes for this episode which you can find at


For more information, check out these resources from this episode:


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Choosing the Right Tennis Ball – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 169

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