How Often Are New Balls Used in Tennis? 

Written by Mark Sampson
Last updated on
KEY
POINTS
  • Tennis balls are constantly rotated in matches and tournaments because they age and need replacing.
  • New tennis balls are necessary for the game to be played properly, as old ones become too soft or slow.
  • Players change their ball every seven games at first, then every nine games after that.

If you go to a tennis facility, you will notice that tennis balls are everywhere. A stray dog could come by and grab one as a chew toy, and no one would see. Why is this? New tennis balls are constantly rotating in matches and tournaments! As tennis balls age, they need replacing. 

If you are wondering how often to replace tennis balls, at what point in the match or tournament they are changed, or the importance of new tennis balls when competing, then keep reading.

Why are new tennis balls used? When are they changed?

Without a new tennis ball, the game becomes much harder to play. Balls cannot travel as far or as fast as they can, which can impact the game. Not only could this cause poor play, but it may also lead to injury.

Players may attempt to overcompensate by swinging harder. Swinging harder can lead to stress on your joints. This is why players bring at least six tennis balls (two cans) to a match.

A player begins the match with a new ball, changing the ball after the first seven games. After that, the player changes their ball every nine games.

How often do they change the tennis balls in a match and why do they do it?

With time and use, tennis balls wear down and their performance decreases. We refer to those tennis balls as “dead,” meaning they’re no longer suitable for playing tennis.

A player begins a match with a new tennis ball. Players start with a fresh ball, so they do not have to swing as hard and aim better. Players will replace their balls after the first seven games and then every nine games.

Why new tennis balls are a must-have for matches

Any tennis player, whatever their level, needs new tennis balls. If you use old balls, then your game will be sluggish and tiring. If you are trying to save money, you can collect the old balls you use during a match and practice with them. That way, you save the new balls for matches.

For pros, the importance of new tennis balls all comes down to hair. The hair on a new tennis ball is smooth. The hair on an older tennis ball is fluffy. Tennis players can check up to 3+ balls before serving. That way, they can choose one smooth ball and one fluffy ball.

Pros use the smooth ball for the first serve. The hairs on the ball are flat, so the ball travels faster. That makes it harder for their competitors to return the ball. If the first serve misses, the player will use the fluffy ball for the second serve. Fluffy balls move slower but are easier to control.

FAQ

Do tennis pros practice with new balls?

Pro tennis players are rough on their tennis balls. They hit the ball hard and like their balls to be in like-new condition. Pros tend to begin a practice session with a new ball and change it out as needed when it becomes sluggish or breaks. Most players start with a new ball and change it after the first seven games. After that, they change it every nine games.

How long do new tennis balls last?

If playing at a light to moderate recreational level, a ball can last 1-4 weeks. If playing competitively, a ball can last from 1-3 hours. Without use, a new tennis ball can last up to one year. Depending on how hard and competitively you play, a new ball can last you a long time.

What happens to the tennis ball after it is replaced?

Players may choose to practice with their discarded balls to save money or gain additional skills. Learning to play with an older ball can give you an advantage when playing in a match. Some balls may be recycled and made into other things. Some tennis balls are donated to charity. Sadly, many balls end up in a landfill.

Why do they change tennis balls so often?

Tennis balls are changed to improve the play of the game, increase speed, or change out a broken ball. While recreational players may be able to use the same ball for days or weeks, professionals play hard. They need to change their balls every 1-3 hours or 7-9 matches. 

Playing hard and at a competitive level, pros need to change their balls frequently to improve their game. This gives the server a slight advantage.

Do new tennis balls affect the course of a tennis match?

Yes, new tennis balls can affect the course of a tennis match. New balls have the highest speed potential. This helps players when serving and on most types of shots. The newer the ball, the more likely the server will win the point. This can affect the course of the match.

Is it bad to practice with dead tennis balls?

“Dead” or old tennis balls can be useful when practicing tennis. It gives you experience with older balls, giving you an advantage when you play during a match. Practicing with “dead” balls can also help you save money, as you don’t need to open a new can of tennis balls every time.

When should tennis balls be replaced?

Tennis balls should be replaced when they are sluggish, cracked, or too fluffy. This may be every 1–4 weeks for light to moderate recreational tennis players. For competitive players, it may be every 1-3 hours.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot to learn about playing tennis. How often to use new balls, what setting to use new balls, how long to use new tennis balls, and much more. In this case, practice makes the best progress. 

Learn when to change your balls, in which settings you like to use new ones, and how long you like to use new tennis balls. The average and statistics can be useful, but you are the true judge of your game. Now, go and play!