When Should Tennis Balls Be Replaced?

Tennis balls are a very important part of tennis practice. Choosing the right type of ball is essential to play well and enjoy tennis, but when should the tennis balls be changed?

Tennis balls are a very important part of tennis practice. Choosing the right type of ball is essential to play well and enjoy tennis, but we will discuss this on another occasion. What concerns us now is the level of wear and tear. When should the tennis balls be changed?

The tennis ball suffers wear and tear with each hit and bounce. The harder you hit it, the more it wears out. Let’s remember spin. Lift shots and slice shots do a lot of damage to the ball. But it is happy, and it is made for this. She is made to support our game and directly participate in our successes on the court. Notice, while I’m being a bit philosophical, that when a good tennis match is over, the players throw the used balls to the public as a souvenir. 

But now let’s get to the heart of the matter.

Factors Contributing to Tennis Ball Wear and Tear

In this article, we talked about the various qualities of tennis balls and the materials they are made of (indicate the link).

Fresh out of the can, the new ball offers the best playing performance. The high-quality ball is made of rubber and covered with natural felt. Both materials need to be more durable. Rubber eventually hardens, is no longer elastic, and feels soft and brittle. So as soon as the balls are taken out of the pressure pot, the countdown begins. 

Good players can wear out a set of balls, which usually comes in cans of 3 or 4 balls, during a match lasting about 2 hours. Average players usually wear out the balls to be used for one more match or practice. 

I am not in favor of always playing with new balls. But I recommend you avoid playing with very worn balls too.

Let’s see the types of balls and factors that can affect their wear. Translated with 

Pressurized and Non-pressurized Tennis Balls

Nowadays, you can almost always find tennis balls sold in a pressurized canister. These are the best. There is a very important aspect to be clarified. It is the altitude at sea level where you practice tennis. If you practice at a high altitude, as in Mexico City, DF, 2200 meters above sea level, playing in balls with pressure would be impossible. There, and in similar places, you play with balls without pressure. But if we practice tennis in other places not so high, it would be normal to play with pressurized balls.

What are pressureless balls used for? In addition to playing at heights, they are usually a good option for children and beginners. They bounce slower, are harder to hit hard, and are slower. All this makes them easier to practice with for low-level players. 

The Impact of the Playing Surface on the Tennis Ball’s Lifetime

The life of the ball depends on two factors. How hard the players hit the ball and the tennis court’s surface.

If the players hit hard, are skilled, and know how to use the different effects, this mainly affects the felt. The rubber is not affected by the blows. It becomes more elastic under the pressure of strong blows. So much so that after long, hard rallies, the ball warms up a bit, which is good for the rubber. The problem is felt. With each hit, it loses some of the hair and gets matted. It gets bigger. 

Surely you have noticed that players in important matches ask for several balls to choose from to play the point. This is done to discard the most affected one and start the point with the better one, to give it its portion of stress so that they all get older simultaneously.

By the way, the matches change the balls, so they are always more or less new. The first change is done after 7 games and then every 9 games. Do you know why the first change after 7 games? It is because it is considered that the wear is equivalent to 2 games of competition during the warm-up.

Type of Court

The worst court for tennis balls is the hard court (Hardcourt). Normally, it is a court made of asphalt painted with special acrylic paint with some sand in its composition. The sand makes the court faster or slower. The sand causes the ball when bouncing, to brake against the surface. This braking causes hair loss. It is like sandpaper. You can see the mark on the court from the bounce, even after a strong serve or a hit. This mark is the remains of the poor ball that it leaves when it bounces. 

The clay court is less aggressive, but the humidity must be considered. The clay court is often watered. The felt gets wet and absorbs the water. The ball becomes unkempt, the weight increases, and the game becomes more difficult on many occasions. Wet balls are still playable. Remember that they go slower if they are dry. It is well known to players who like to play slow tennis.

Storage Conditions and Their Effect on the Performance of Tennis Balls

If you see that the balls can take one more match, don’t throw them away after playing. If the match is coming up soon, within the next week or two, you don’t need to do anything. You can simply keep them in the same can. They will hold the pressure without any problems. If you are going to play for a longer period, they will be soft if you store them without pressure. A special canister allows you to increase the pressure with a pump to store the balls for longer (Link to Amazon). I recommend you think well and see if it is worth buying the special canister or just buying a new canister of balls to play with. 

Signs That It Is Time to Change Tennis Balls

To decide to change the balls, you must assess two factors — the condition of the feet and the ball’s hardness.

Loss of Bounce and Pressure

A ball that has lost pressure does not bounce well. The bounce could be better, and you immediately see that the ball is slower than normal.

Flattened or Inconsistent Felt or Poor Pile.

The ball is worn, and there is little hair. The felt is not visible, and even the rubber is visible. The ball is said to be bald. The bounce is too fast, and it is challenging to give a spin. The ball is not controlled.

Visible Damage or Wear

The worn ball looks ugly, but the mark is not visible, which is a good indicator of wear.

Change of Sound After Impact

The characteristic impact sound becomes different with the ball stripped or deflated. It is said that the ball is punctured. The set of balls should be changed immediately.

Decreased Spin and Control

Control depends on the contact between the ball and the racquet’s strings at the stroke’s time. If the ball has no hair on it, it is pinched. This contact could be of better quality. The player is unable to transmit the spin and power. It affects the control of the effect, the direction. Without this, there is no quality tennis. You need help deciding where to send the ball. There are bad feelings and nerves. It’s time to change the ball.

Guidelines for Replacing Tennis Balls According to Use.

Professional and Competitive Play

In high-level competitions, the demand for the ball is maximum. In professional tournaments, such as Grand Slams, balls are changed frequently. Here, every detail counts: a ball in suboptimal condition can make the difference between a point won or lost. Changing balls every 1 or 2 sessions is advisable for training at this level.

Recreational and Club Play

Frequent ball changes are unnecessary and optional for club players or those who play for fun. However, using the same balls for weeks is not advisable. Changing balls every 3-5 games is a good rule of thumb.

Practice and Training Sessions

 In training sessions, balls wear out quickly, especially if repetitive strokes are practiced. Therefore, changing them every 2-3 sessions is the right thing. It is important to remember that training with balls in poor condition can affect the player’s development, as they do not offer a realistic bounce.

Use of the Tennis Ball Machine

These machines require a large volume of balls. They do not all have to be new, but they need to be of equal wear and tear, and it is critical to ensure that they maintain a consistent bounce. Changing balls every month can be a good strategy to maintain adequate performance. 

How to Choose the Right Tennis Balls for Your Needs

Regular Felt vs. Extra Felt

Extra felt is more durable and is recommended for rough surfaces such as asphalt. On the other hand, regular felt offers a softer feel, ideal for clay courts.

Recommendations for Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced Players

Beginners should opt for slower or lower-pressure balls, as they make it easier to hit. Intermediate players can opt for general-purpose tennis balls, while advanced players, who hit with more power and spin, should choose high-quality and durable balls.

Brand Considerations and Personal Preferences

Each brand offers different features, and it is important to try several to determine which one best suits your game. Some players also have preferences based on sponsorships or simple superstitions.

Reusing Used Tennis Balls

Creative and Practical Ways to Reuse Old Tennis Balls.

Once the balls have outlived their usefulness on the court, they can have a second use as floor protectors, pet toys, or even as a base for crafts.

Donate Used Tennis Balls to Schools, Clubs, or Animal Shelters.

Many schools and clubs with limited budgets will gladly accept used ball donations. Animal shelters also often welcome donations, as they serve as animal toys.

Tennis Ball Recycling Programs

Many programs collect used balls to recycle rubber and felt, giving them a new purpose and contributing to the environment.


Tennis is a sport of details, and ball quality is one of them. For the best performance and to enjoy this beautiful game to the fullest, paying attention to the ball’s condition is crucial. As your game evolves, you will notice the difference it makes to play with balls in good condition. Finally, remember that every ball has a useful life on the court but may have a purpose off the court. Donating, recycling, or reusing are great ways to give them a second life – enjoy the game and take care of your tennis balls!

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