Best Tennis Balls

Updated October 2021
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Buying guide for best tennis balls

For almost 150 years, the tennis ball as we know it has more or less been the same. In the 1880s in England, it evolved to essentially what it is today: a rubber ball covered by felt with pressurized air on the inside. Shape, weight, and size are nearly uniform across all tennis balls. They are roughly two ounces in weight and just over 2.5 inches in diameter.

That simplicity and consistency in design belie the creativity and innovation underneath, however. There are significant subtle variations among tennis balls that can have a dramatic impact on your tennis game. You will need to consider these small but important distinctions when choosing and using tennis balls. As a consumer, it’s also important to know if your tennis ball needs will change over time. For many people, they do. If so, you’ll likely want to have more than one kind of tennis ball in your possession.

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Historically, tennis balls used in competition were either black or white. But once tennis got on television, the switch was made to yellow so viewers could more easily track the ball.

Key considerations

Skill level, intent, and environment play important primary roles in which tennis balls are best. Cost and your personal level of dedication may also be factors. You can determine what’s best for you once you know what your options are.

Pressurized vs. pressureless tennis balls

Tennis balls are either pressurized or pressureless. Put simply, the former is for competitive play and the latter is for beginners and for training purposes. Pressurized balls have better bounce initially, but as soon as they are removed from the can, they start to lose that bounce as air slowly seeps out. Pressurized tennis balls wear down quite a bit after only a few weeks — and sometimes after a single match.

Pressureless balls, on the other hand, gain bounce over time as the outer felt wears down. While pressurized balls achieve bounce and spin due to air inside, pressureless balls achieve bounce and spin due to their rubber structure. However, these balls may be heavier and harder to play with in a match. Because they’re better suited for practice, they have a long shelf life and are great for machines.


There are four types of ball speeds from which to choose.

  • Slow: Balls with a slow speed have a slightly larger diameter and are meant to slow the game down. These are best for beginners and recreational players who may have a harder time tracking the ball.

  • Medium: Balls with a medium speed are the most common type available. They work well for most players in most situations most of the time.

  • Fast: Fast balls are rather rare, as they are the most specifically tailored. Essentially, fast balls are meant to speed up the game on slower surfaces, like clay, and would be used by high-end players looking for a quicker pace of play.

  • High altitude: Because pressure is affected by elevation higher than sea level, these balls are made with those players in mind who are competing at about a 4,000-foot altitude or higher. They allow for more control and better bounce, lest the balls sail off into the distance when hit.

Felt duty

There are three types of outer coating designed to optimize performance on specific playing surfaces.

  • Regular duty: These have a finer felt coating. They are best for clay courts and indoor surfaces that are less abrasive.

  • Heavy duty: Ideal for hard courts, heavy-duty tennis balls (also known as extra-duty tennis balls) have a dense, thick felt covering that maintains over a longer period. On softer surfaces, the felt turns fluffy, losing speed and bounce.

  • Grass court felt: As the name suggests, these are optioned for grass court play. They are essentially the same as regular-duty balls, as grass courts are softer, but they are made to resist the staining that comes with playing on grass.

Beginner stages

In 2007, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) began a program to help beginners and guide players through the early stages of their training. They devised a staging system for tennis balls based on the level of play. These are all slower balls that allow for better practice habits.

  • Stage 3 (red): The most basic, these are best for ages 10 and younger, and they’re ideal for smaller courts.

  • Stage 2 (orange): More advanced, these balls keep lift down and are best on courts with a slightly reduced length.

  • Stage 1 (green): For full court use, these are the most advanced beginner balls, allowing for focus on technique while still maintaining a slightly slower speed and bounce.


Carrying containers

Pressureless balls are great for training, and often, you’ll be toting around a lot. Some large sets come with a variety of options for lugging and storing the balls. Mesh bags, totes, and plastic buckets are all possibilities that make for greater convenience and ease. The bucket is especially fun for skilled tennis players who like to hit the ball in the bucket when it’s time to pack up.


Some brands have specific numbers painted on the balls alongside the logo. These help players keep track of which balls are theirs. If you’re playing with quite a few balls or with someone who also brought their own balls, this can be helpful.


Because color does not change how a tennis ball works, there are a few options that can liven up your game. Black, white, pink, and red are among the options. Two-toned balls can also help with practicing and identifying the spin on the ball. However, serious competitors may only want to use the officially sanctioned yellow or white tennis balls.

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Did you know?
Over 300 million tennis balls are sold on average each year, but they are not biodegradable. Some companies will recycle old tennis balls once they are of no use.

Tennis ball prices

The price of tennis balls is mainly influenced by whether they are pressurized. If they are, they tend to be more expensive, costing about $2 to $3 per ball. Non-pressurized balls may cost around $1 per ball. Of course, you can’t just get a single ball. Pressurized tennis balls tend to come in cans of three, while non-pressurized tennis balls come in bags with as many as 60 per bag.

Inexpensive: For under $8, you can find a good-quality can of three tennis balls. These can be heavy-duty or regular-duty but are pressurized and meant for more serious play.

Mid-range: For between $8 and $20, you’ll be able to find either a set (anywhere from two to four cans) of pressurized balls or a bag of non-pressurized balls. A set of cans will be slightly cheaper than individual cans.

Expensive: Once you’re spending over $20, you’re essentially getting tennis balls in bulk, and the more you get, the lower the price per ball is. For example, you can get a set of 24 cans for anywhere from $80 to $100, which is roughly under $4 a can. For non-pressurized balls, you can find options of 60 balls for around $60.


  • Look for keywords. Some companies don’t like to advertise a ball as being “pressureless” for fear that consumers will misunderstand it to be an inferior product. Pressureless balls may be marketed with the words “training” or “starter”, and they will not come in a can.

  • Open when ready. Only unseal a new can of tennis balls when you’re ready to use them on the court in a competitive match. The balls lose pressure immediately after opening.

  • Use tennis balls for fitness off the court, too. Tennis balls can be used for a variety of exercises and stretches, from hand-eye coordination work to massaging tight muscles to enhancing your grip.

  • Reuse old tennis balls. For example, the rubber part can be used as a protective cover for sharp objects or to prevent scraping. You can give old tennis balls to dogs as play toys or cut them open to provide hiding spots for pet rodents. Old tennis balls can also be used effectively as dusters, pool cleaners, and to separate clothing in the dryer.


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Tennis balls can make a great gift ... most of the time. In William Shakespeare’s Henry V, the Dauphin of France sends a young Henry V a chest of tennis balls to mock him for being frivolous, inciting the king to war.


Q. Are tennis balls okay for dogs?

A. Dog owners should be aware of their pet’s tendencies before allowing them to play with tennis balls. While they can make for great toys, they are a danger if the dog punctures or swallows the ball. The rubber could lead to a throat blockage, and a burst ball could cause internal damage as well. Chewing long-term could also lead to dental wear. Make sure to talk to your veterinarian and learn your dog’s habits first.

Q. What is that tennis ball smell?

A. When tennis balls are unsealed from a can, there is often a pungent aroma that emanates. It’s a mixture of the materials used to make the tennis ball — felt, rubber, and glue — that stay potent in the pressurized can.

Q. How long will a tennis ball last?

A. Unpressurized balls will last much longer than pressurized balls in terms of intended use; they are best for training and casual play. Pressurized balls in their optimal state may only last a match or two and will slowly lose air over the course of a few weeks. At that time, they won’t be entirely useless, but they won’t have the same bounce.

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