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If you are a new tennis player, you may be surprised to learn that you cannot purchase a can of tennis balls and expect them to last indefinitely. Instead, they need to be replaced often because they quickly lose their bounce and firmness. After learning this information, you might be wondering how long tennis balls last and how you know it's time to replace them. We've done the research to bring you this answer.
Depending on the level of play, tennis balls will last from as long as 1-4 weeks for a casual player and 1-3 hours for a professional player. There are signs you can look for to know it is time to replace the balls, including:
- Reduced bounce
- Change in firmness
- Presence of fuzz
We will discuss the life expectancy time frame in more depth to help you understand how often you need to replace your tennis balls based on your use. We will also elaborate on the signs of a "dead ball" so you can identify when it is time to get a replacement.
Life Expectancy By Play Style
The life expectancy of a tennis ball looks very different depending on if you are a professional player or a casual one.
Professional Or Competitive Play
Professional or competitive tennis players play very hard for long hours at a time. Their skills are more advanced, and they can put exert more power on the ball.
Because of this, their tennis balls will last significantly less than those of casual players. If you play at the professional or competitive level, you can expect your balls to last for 1-3 hours on continuous play.
Casual tennis players may play as frequently as daily or a little as weekly. They play for fun rather than to compete. While they can certainly have skills that match those of competitive players, their play may be more gentle since their focus is on recreation.
Casual players will need to replace their balls every 1-4 weeks, depending on how frequently they play and for how long.
Signs Of A Dead Ball
As you can see, the life expectancy of a tennis ball varies greatly. You can't rely solely on a timeline to know when your ball needs to be replaced. Taking note of the signs that a ball is dead will help you get the most use out of your tennis balls.
Bounciness is one of the most important characteristics of a tennis ball. When you bounce your tennis ball on the court, it should come back with ease. If you need to put more effort into bouncing the ball, or it doesn't reach its typical height, it needs to be replaced.
Change In Firmness
When you press your thumb into a tennis ball, it should give a little but spring back to its original shape. When balls are too soft to play with, you will notice that it provides more than usual and may be able to bounce back.
Alternatively, balls that have been exposed to excessive heat may become too firm to use. There will be no give when you push your thumb into this ball, and the ball will feel hard. In this case, the ball will be too bouncy to be reliable enough for gameplay.
Presence Of Yellow Fuzz
Tennis balls come with their signature yellow fuzz for good reason. The fuzz provides some resistance, preventing the ball from bouncing too fast or erratically. It is also a good indicator for determining when to replace the ball.
A brand new ball will have abundant yellow fuzz, but as it ages, the fuzz will begin to wear down. Compacted or missing fuzz is a good indicator that you have had the ball for a while and need to replace it.
How Often Should You Replace Tennis Balls?
How often you need to replace your tennis balls depends on whether you play professionally, on a team, or just for fun. The BBC reports that professionals replace tennis balls every nine games.
Casual players replace them slightly less often. Some casual players use a new can of balls each time they play, while others use one can of balls for 3-4 sessions before replacing them.
Do Unopened Tennis Balls Expire?
Unopened tennis balls expire after two years. Even when sealed in a can, the tennis balls have tiny leaks that make them less bouncy after a while.
How Should I Store Tennis Balls?
Believe it or not, temperature plays a role in how tennis balls perform. When they are too cold, they don't bounce enough. When tennis balls are too hot, they bounce erratically. Make sure that you take care when storing them so they can last longer.
Whether you store your balls in the garage or a room inside your home, ensure that the area is a moderate temperature. Home is ideal for ball storage because you can control the temperature. If you keep them outdoors or in your car, you might find that some are not usable straight out of the can.
Storing During Play
No set rule governs how you store your tennis balls during transport or play. However, it is a good idea to separate your active tennis balls from the dead ones and used them for practice.
Ideally, you should keep the balls you can use for play in the can while you leave the old balls in your bag. Otherwise, you can designate a specific spot or bag for each type of ball for easier identification.
What Can You Do With Old Tennis Balls?
Replacing tennis balls every time you play can create a lot of waste. You can reduce this waste by repurposing your old tennis balls. Here are some ways to do that.
Schools sometimes use tennis balls on chair legs to make it easier for children to move their chairs around. For the same reason, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers put tennis balls on the legs of walkers. Check these places in your area to see if they could use the tennis balls you usually throw away.
ReBounces is just one agency that has a tennis ball recycling program. While your old tennis balls might not serve you as well on the court, they can be used to make tennis courts. Other organizations, such as Recycle Balls, recycle old tennis balls and use them as dog toys.
Tennis balls need to be replaced frequently because they lose their bounce. However, you can still use an old ball to practice. Serving and practicing ground shots are common ways people practice using the old tennis balls that can't be used in games anymore.
Can You Revive Old Tennis Balls?
Yes! Some tennis players swear by re-pressurizing their tennis balls to reduce waste. You can buy or make a pressurizing device, which is simply a cylinder similar to the one your tennis balls came in when you purchased them.
When you introduce air into the device it builds pressure, filling the slow leaks that cause the tennis balls to go flat. Take that look at this video by Pressureball to get a better idea of how these devices work:
While there is a rule of thumb for tennis ball replacement, it is difficult to recommend a particular time frame since gameplay looks so different across tennis players.
However, time is one of many ways to determine if a ball needs a replacement. Pay attention to how the ball looks and feels and how it behaves to decide whether you need to replace the ball.
Feel free to get more use out of your tennis balls during practice by reusing the older ones. However, for your games, you must replace them as frequently as necessary for optimal gameplay.
To learn more about tennis equipment and how to keep it in the best shape, take a look at the articles below: