What do you look for when you buy new tennis balls? Is price the most important factor? Color? Brand? Have you found a favorite ball that you just must have?
Do you know why some tennis balls are pressurized and some are not? Can you tell what ball is the best for clay or hard courts? Is there a difference between yellow and white balls?
We know it all! By the end of this piece, you’ll know more about tennis balls than you ever thought possible, too.
Just in case we confuse you, we’ll wrap things up by telling you what we think are the top five tennis balls available today.
Green Elephant in the Room
Let’s start with one of the most common questions people have when they search the internet for tennis balls. That question of course is, “Why can’t I buy green tennis balls online?”
The answer is simple. There is no such thing as green tennis balls. The balls you love that you swear are green are actually “optic yellow”.
That’s right. The official rules of tennis dictate that adult, professional balls are either optic yellow or white. Optic is a good name for the color because apparently its green appearance is an optical illusion.
If you see real green, pink, or orange tennis balls, they are probably made for short courts or children’s tournaments.
Professional, Intermediate and Practice Balls
There are three main classifications of tennis balls. Professional balls are the only ones allowed in tournament play. Intermediate or tier-two tennis balls are what most of us use. Practice balls are the cheapest variation and have specific uses.
Professional balls are the most expensive option. They are pressurized to make them stiffer and bouncier. Despite the price, they have the shortest court life.
That’s because the pressurization starts to fade as soon as these balls come out of the can. It is not uncommon to use these balls for one tournament, or even just one match, before discarding them.
The Balls the Rest of Us Use
Intermediate balls, also called tier-two balls, are significantly less expensive than their professional-level counterparts. They are not bad tennis balls, though.
Tier two balls are designed for the competitive and experienced players who are more casual about their game. If you want a good product, but are not the type of player who has to use a new set of balls for each match, intermediate tennis balls are for you.
There are third-tier or beginner options, as well as practice balls available, too. These balls may not have the sharp bounce that intermediate balls have right out of the can (or bag). However, they tend to last just as long and are a viable option for beginners and players on a budget.
Can’t Take the Pressure?
Pressurized balls are literally filled with air to reinforce the rubber inner shell and provide added bounce and less deformity on impact. These balls also have better speed and spin.
High-quality pressurized balls will have very tight “fuzz” to prevent it from lifting off the ball, slowing it and affecting its trajectory. The fuzz factor and firmness are what the pros are looking for when they fiddle with three balls at the service line before throwing one back to the ball person.
Pressure-less balls are the more common option. They rely solely on the rubber shell to provide their bounce. In fact, if the fuzz starts wearing thin, these balls may even bounce higher.
By design, pressureless balls are more durable and much less expensive. If you have played with both pressurized and pressureless balls, you may find the cheaper variety heavy and slow.
Surface and Environment
There are specialized balls made for grass and clay courts. So if you happen to have intentions of playing in the French Open or Wimbledon, you should look for those.
The vast majority of us play in the United States, which usually means hard courts. These courts do vary a bit. Some higher end clubs are trying to lessen player wear and tear with synthetic surfaces.
Even concrete surfaces may play differently depending how much sand is used in their paint. (The sand is what makes some courts less slick than others.)
Another factor is altitude. If you happen to live or play at or above 4,000 feet, pressurized balls will bounce by higher and faster than at a lower altitude. There are special high-altitude options for players in those locations.
Besides the high-altitude balls, there are a couple of other specialty options out there for you. The wear and tear of American hard courts led most manufacturers to develop “extra duty” balls. Some of these have been on the market for a while.
There is talk recently of changing the inner core of tennis balls to make the bounce last much longer. Of course, if all the fuzz falls off the ball, you’ll still want to replace it. There is nothing more embarrassing than a bald ball.
Another problem being addressed is the increasing rate of tennis elbow. At least two companies have developed “elbow-saving” balls. They claim to take 15% of the typical impact off your arms.
So What’s the Best?
Ultimately, what we think are the best tennis balls may not be your favorite. It is notable that our list includes most of the top sellers, proving that sometimes your gut knows what’s best.
We reviewed these options from the viewpoint of, well...us! The competitive (if only in our own minds), dedicated recreational player who spent the bucks to obtain the whole outfit and enough gear to look impressive in our tennis bag.
So here you go. Here are the top five tennis balls for us on the market today.
1. Penn Championship Tennis Ball
No secret here. Penn Championship tennis balls are the best-selling tennis balls in the world. Penn states its controlled-fiber release, natural rubber core, and interlocked wool fibers account for the long-life and reliability their customers love.
Although considered a tier-two tennis ball, the Penn Championship ball is tournament certified by the United States Tennis Association and the International Tennis Federation. What does all that mean to us?
Our players said the Penn Championships bounced well. They further said the bounce did not diminish as quickly as other balls they had used.
These balls were called “neat”, as in the fuzz was uniform and not peeling or tearing away.
The price point relative to quality was cited by a majority of our players.
2. Wilson Championship Extra Duty Tennis Ball
Wilson says their special Dura-weave felt and natural rubber core
is the secret to their success. They claim the Championship Extra Duty is durable and consistent.
Our people seemed to like them, too, as evidenced by their comments:
Many players cited the firmness of the ball, which they claim lasted longer than some competitors’ tennis balls.
Several told us that the bounciness was still there even when all the fuzz was worn away.
Players who previously used the regular-duty version of this ball often said the extra duty was evident in the ball’s length of service.
3. Wilson U.S. Open Extra Duty Tennis Ball
The official ball of the US Open since 1978, Wilson’s US Open Extra Duty tennis balls are obviously approved by the USTA and ITF for tournament play. The price point makes it a good option for intermediate players, too.
Wilson uses Premium Tex/ Tech Industries felt and an extra duty core aimed at added durability on the hard courts. Our group of players had some thoughts about that, too.
The term “professional quality” was used a lot.
The reliability or consistency of the bounce and trajectory was also cited often.
A few players said it was cool to say they use the same ball used at the US Open.
4. Dunlop Sports Championship Tennis Balls
Dunlop’s tier two tennis balls are considered the “no-frills” balls of the tennis world. The manufacturer does not offer any explanation of special technology or cutting edge design.
They just work. They are also less expensive than their counterparts, something noted by our players, too.
“They are round. They bounce well. They are much less expensive than other brands, but not in proportion to its durability.”
Some noted that they feel a little heavier than higher quality balls, but they bounce true and last long enough to make them a good value.
Many said they were pleasantly surprised at the Dunlop’s performance in relation to the cost.
5. Wilson Championship Regular Duty Tennis Balls
Wilson gained its third spot on this list with its original Championship tennis ball. This ball offers the same felt weave with a standard rubber core.
The manufacturer says this ball is best for clay or indoor courts. Here is what our players said.
Many said the regular duty ball seemed to feel lighter on contact, providing less impact on their arms.
Some said they were not quite as bouncy as the extra duty, but they were not bad and they bounced true.
The price and performance made this was a great ball for casual games and practice with newer or slower players.
So there you have it; our choices for the five best tennis balls for players like us. Whether you use our suggestions or take your newfound knowledge about tennis balls to go it on your own, thank you for checking out our thoughts.
And remember: the ball is yellow, not green.