Tennis Balls FAQ

The tennis ball is arguably the most important piece of tennis equipment.  After all, without good tennis balls, there is no game!  This article will share some of the frequently asked questions that players have about tennis balls.

What color is a tennis ball and why?

The tennis balls used at major sporting events are almost always fluorescent yellow.  Officials have chosen this color because it is very easy for the human eye to track at high velocities.  Recreational tennis balls can any color.

How big is a tennis ball?

According to the International Tennis Federation, the standard size of a tennis ball is

between 2½ inches (6.35cm) and 2 5/8 inches in diameter.  This is one of the oldest tennis ball specifications, dating back to 1880.

What is the mass of a tennis ball?

According to the United States Olympic Committee, a tennis ball should weigh between 2 and 2 1/16 ounces (57.7 and 58.5 grams).  The International Tennis Federation agrees, saying that all tennis balls used in their tournaments should be between two ounces (56.7 g) and 2 1/16 ounces (58.5 grams) in weight.

How many types of tennis balls are there?

There are three main classes of tennis balls:

  • Professional tennis balls
    These are premium, high-quality balls with excellent durability. They are used in professional tennis tournaments.
  • Championship tennis balls
    Championship balls are a small step down in terms of quality. They might lose pressure more rapidly and the felt isn’t as robust.  They are still great tennis balls and ideal for amateur competitions.
  • Practice tennis balls
    Practice balls are not high performance but are designed to last a long time. There are both pressured and pressure-less practice balls available.  The pressure-less balls are very dense and tough. If you are using a tennis ball machine (like these) you want pressureless balls.

How are hard court tennis balls different to clay/grass court?

The only difference between hardcourt and clay or grass tennis balls relates to the quality of the felt.  Hardcourt balls will have thicker felt that is made from a combination of nylon and wool.  It also has a looser weave than soft-court balls.  The thick felt on hardcourt balls doesn’t wear away as quickly, which helps the ball retain its flight characteristics for a longer period.

The tighter weave on clay/grass balls means they will pick up less clay and dirt when hitting the court surface.  This stops the balls from accumulating debris and becoming heavier during the game.  The tighter weave also means the balls can move faster through the air, which is useful on soft court surfaces where there isn’t as much bounce.

Do tennis balls have different speeds?

Yes!  The International Tennis Federation has defined three types of officially sanctioned balls:

  • Type 1 — a slightly faster ball that can be used on ‘slower’ court surfaces like clay and grass. It has less felt than a type 2 ball. Also called regular duty tennis balls.
  • Type 2 — the standard tennis ball, designed for use on outdoor hard courts. Also called extra duty tennis balls.
  • Type 3 — a larger, slow-speed ball that is specifically designed to be used at high altitude.

If you are an amateur player, chances are you will mostly use Type 2 balls.  You can view a full list of officially sanctioned balls here.

Do female professional tennis players use different tennis balls to males?

Surprisingly, the answer is usually yes.  Female tennis players often use a “faster” ball in competitive matches.  This allows them to play an aggressive style of tennis because each shot will move at a faster velocity.  Men use a slower ball to slow the pace of those big serves and make the gameplay more varied.

The key difference between fast and slow is how much felt the balls have on them.  A ball with less felt will move faster through the air, while the opposite is true for balls with more felt.  A ball with more felt will also contact the strings for a longer period, making it “feel” heavier to the player when they play a shot.

In the U.S. Open, women will use regular-duty felt Wilson Balls, while men will use the fluffier extra-duty Wilson balls.  The balls have the same size, weight, bounce, and pressure — but they travel through the air at different speeds and feel different to hit because of the differences in felt.

The difference in regular-duty and heavy-duty balls is obvious to professional tennis players who spend many hours on the court.  However, amateur players might not even notice the difference between faster and slower balls.

It’s important to note that women don’t always use a different ball.  All players competing at the Wimbledon Championships will use the same ball type (regular-duty).

How far should a tennis ball bounce?

All regulation tennis balls should bounce between 135-147 cm (53-58 inches) when dropped from a height of 254 cm (100 inches).  Type 3 (high altitude) tennis balls should bounce 122-135 cm (48-53 inches).

How do they make tennis balls?

The process for making tennis balls usually consists of several stages:

  1. Crushing – The raw materials that make up the ball are crushed together. Most tennis balls use a rubber combined with materials like clay to deaden the bounce of the ball slightly.
  2. Compressing – The rubber compound is sliced into smaller sheets and compression moulded into the shape of a semi-sphere.
  3. Sheeting – The semi-circles are removed from the mould tray and left to cool.
  4. Glueing – Each semi-sphere is cut to an exact height, then has its edges covered in heat activated adhesive. Then, the two shells are injected with compressed air and glued together under heat and high pressure.
  5. Buffing – The balls are abraded with sand-paper to create grooves that help the felt adhere to the surface.
  6. Felting – The balls are covered in glue, then covered in felt. Heat and pressure are applied again to ensure the glue is set.
  7. Packaging – The balls are branded and package in pressurized cans so the balls retain their pressure during transit.

Tennis Frequently Asked Questions

Tennis is a fun game, but it does involve quite a few rules.  It’s no wonder that newcomers to the sport are often confused by what is going on when they first watch a tennis match.  This Tennis FAQ will clear up some of the most common questions and talk you through the facts to help you get more enjoyment out of this great sport.

What is the start of a tennis match called?

The first shot played in any tennis match is called a service (or serve).  The first service is performed from the left side of the court’s baseline and must land in the left service box on the other side of the net.  Every subsequent serve will then change sides, with the server moving between the left and right sides of the base line. Take a look at the red arrow below to see how the server must direct their first serve.

Once the game is finished (see below to learn what a game is) the other player gets to serve.  Service continues to alternate when each game finishes.

How does tennis scoring work?

The tennis scoring system is perhaps the most complex part of the game, which is why some newcomers find it confusing.  A tennis match has pointsgamesand sets.


After the ball is successfully served, each player will hit it to their opponent’s side of the court.  If the server successfully lands in the service box, each player will continue to hit it back-and-forth until one of them fails to return it, hits it out on-the-full and or hits it into the net.  If this occurs, their opponent wins the point.

If the ball is not successfully served (it doesn’t land in the correct service box or hits the net), the server will have a fault.  They will get to perform another serve.  If they fail again, they are at double fault and their opponent wins a point.

If you win four points in a row, you will win a game.  However, it’s important to note that tennis points are named in an unusual way:

  • Love— zero points
  • 15 — when a player has won their first point of the game.
  • 30 — when a player wins two points in a game
  • 40— when a player wins three points in a game
  • Deuce– when the score is 40-40 it is called Deuce (another word for a tie).  To win the game from deuce, one of the players must win two consecutive points.
  • Advantage– If you win one point after being at Deuce, you will have Advantage.  Win another point and you win the game.  If you lose the next point, it goes back to Deuce.

When saying or writing the score of a tennis game, you will always have the score of the player currently serving first.  Here are a few examples, of how points work:

  • If you are serving and have won a single point, the score would be 15-0 or 15 love.
  • If you are serving and have lost a single point, the score would be 0-15 or love 15.
  • If you are serving and lose 3 points in a row, the score would be 0-40 or love 40. If you lose one more point, you lose the game!
  • If you make a comeback and reach Deuce (40-40), then win another point — you will have Advantage. Win the next point and you win the game.  If you lose the next point, the score goes back to deuce.  Games can continue for a long time if either player cannot win two consecutive points after the score reaches deuce.

See: How to Keep Score in Tennis  |  How to Read Tennis Scores


At the end of the game, the person serving will change.  So, if you were serving that game, give the ball to your opponent so they can serve the next game.

If you managed to win the game, congratulations!  Now, you need to win the set.  A set consists of at least 6 games, with the first person to 6 games winning.  However, you must win by at least two games.  That means, if the score is 6-5, you still have to win another game to be two games in front (7-5).  If it is a close match, players might end up winning 8, 9, or 10 games before they claim the set.


The winner of the match is determined by the best of three or five sets.  If you are playing to three and win the first two sets, the game is over.  If you win one set each, you must play the third match to decide.

What is an Ace?

An ace occurs when you successfully land a serve inside the service box and the receiver is unable to hit the ball.

How many sets to win in tennis?

Most matches are decided by the best of three sets.  However, professional male tennis players participating in a grand slam tournament will usually play best of five sets.

How long does a tennis match last?

It really depends on how close the match is.  If every game is a tightly contested affair with points often going to deuce and extra games being played, it can go for many hours.

On average, a three-set match will last around 2 hours in total.  A longer five-set match averages around 3.5 hours, but some close games can last much longer.  In 2010, a match at the Wimbledon Championship between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut lasted for 11 hours and 5 minutes over the space of three days.

Why do tennis players bounce the ball before serving?

There are two reasons why most tennis players will bounce the tennis ball on the ground before the serve.  The first reason is pragmatic — the player is simply testing how “bouncy” the ball is before hitting it.  If the ball still contains a lot of air and is very bouncy, they change how hard they hit it when serving.

The other reason is that bouncing the ball a few times acts like a kind of ritual that helps the player get into “the zone”.  When they bounce the ball, they remember all of the other habits that they are meant to perform when serving, like throwing the ball a certain distance, moving their feet correctly, or adding spin to the ball.  These little rituals help a player hit their serve reliably and have it land in the service court.

What does “let” mean in tennis?

A “let” occurs when a player serves and the ball hits the top of the net but still manages to land in the service court.  When a let occurs, it is not considered a fault and the player serving gets to serve again.

What is a break in tennis?

A “break” is announced if a player receiving serve is ahead by between one to three points and only needs one more point to win the game.  For example, if you are receiving serve and the score is 30-40, you will “break” your opponents serve if you win the next point and take the game.

If a ball lands on the line is it out?

No!  If the ball lands on one of the singles sidelines or the baseline between the singles sidelines, it is considered in bounds.

How to Recycle Tennis Balls

Our time for the annual spring-clean is nigh and as we’re all preparing for the dreaded task of sorting through all the unnecessary stuff we’ve accumulated over the last year, we’re already thinking of ways to recycle some of the things that might find a second purpose in life.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that we need to treat our planet better, and one way to contribute to a healthier environment is by responsibly recycling materials that could otherwise harm our natural eco-system. This doesn’t always mean simply paying attention to the way we separate our waste, but also finding creative and innovative ways to upcycle items and use them for another purpose.

If you’re a passionate tennis player or happen to have a dog with a serious tennis ball collection, you’re probably wondering about a good way to recycle them. Even the best tennis balls deteriorate eventually so here are some creative and efficient tips on how to recycle old tennis balls!

Start a Toddler Band

Tired of listening to your kiddos’ incredibly noisy shows full of high-pitched characters? Then get them away from the TV and encourage them to start a band instead – you’ll still have to deal with noise, but at least it’ll be of the musical kind. Grab a few of the many tennis balls you’ve been looking to recycle and slit them open on one side. Fill them with pebbles or bells and superglue them shut again. They’ll make for great toddler instruments that will get everyone busting a dance move to the family band’s favourite tunes.

Emoji Party

Trying to think of fun decoration ideas for your teen’s upcoming birthday party? If there’s one thing all teenagers share in common, it’s their love for emojis. Your old tennis balls are the ideal canvass for making your teen’s favourite emojis come to life. Use a permanent marker to draw on the faces and then place them all together in a bowl to act as a centrepiece for the party table. Who knows, you might even inspire the future generation to find their own creative methods of recycling their tennis balls.

Tennis Court Painting

If you want to pay tribute to your favourite sport in the world, why not use your old tennis balls to paint a picture of a tennis court? Use a sturdy surface such as a wooden board or a piece of drywall and paint it tennis-court green or terracotta. Choose several contrasting colours, dip your tennis ball into paint and softly serve it on to the canvass. Repeat the process until you feel happy with your tennis ball prints.

Floor Protectors

It’s not easy keeping your floors pristine when your kids are constantly scraping their chairs against them. Avoid adding further scratches to your lovely floorboards by cutting an X into your old tennis balls and slipping the chair’s leg into them. Ensure they have a firm grip and you’ll never have to worry about damaging your floors again.

Bug Repellants

Spring has sprung early this year, and with the blossoming flowers and rising temperatures, the flies have come out to play too. Go back to enjoying your garden without having to ward off these pests all night, by creating fun-looking bug repellants you can hang from your trees or the patio ceiling. Attach a string to the ball using a pin and coat the tennis ball in Vaseline – gnats and flies will be more attracted to the Vaseline than to you!

Tennis Wreath

Prepare for the holy tennis season this summer by creating a funky tennis ball wreath. This will be the perfect décor feature to get everyone excited about the tennis viewing party and will set the tone for a winning afternoon/evening.


Collect 200 tennis balls from your own personal collection or your local club, request a pre-paid shipping label and send them into reBounces. This program, in partnership with Ace Surfaces, will grind up your old tennis balls and use the materials to create innovative and sustainable sport surfacing systems such as the Laykold Master 5 and Laykold Master 8.

Gift Recipient

Surprise your tennis buddies with lovely little gifts presented in a tennis ball recipient. Simply slice the ball in half – always leaving the bottom half bigger than the top half – and fill it up with candy, homemade treats or whatever else you might think of. Hand it to your friend as is or wrap it in cellophane for an elegant presentation.

Pacman Letter Holder

Finally, a great way to keep all your letters and papers organized in a fun, creative manner! Turn your tennis balls into little Pacman characters by cutting a triangle-shaped mouth into the middle and sticking plastic eyes above it. Use strong, double-sided tape to stick your Pacman to the wall and feed him with your letters.