Tennis is one of the most popular sports globally that attracts participants of different ages. Therefore, we may see at least one court in our local sports center or even in a training complex of another sports club. Also, if there is a court near your house, you might have a chance to see a tennis ball or even take it home. 

For this kind of ball, the quality is determined by three elements. So what are the three physical properties of a tennis ball? Read this article for detailed information. 



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3 Main Physical Properties

A tennis ball has many physical characteristics, but the 3 main features affecting its quality are size (including weight and dimension), bounce, and forward and return deformation. 

The material for every ball is the same, but the dimensions and levels of bounce and deformation are different depending on the tournament and the place holding the event. For more information about the three properties and other features of a ball, continue reading the content below. 

When this sport appeared in the 1870s, people made the balls by making a leather cover around a heap of cloth or horsehair. Unfortunately, these materials were not durable and could not make the balls bounce. 

Many years later, the Indians used rubber to produce tennis balls. And when they realized the benefit of bouncing balls, they applied pressurized air into the balls’ cores to enhance bounce. 

In modern tennis, according to the International Tennis Federation (ITF), a ball must be made of two pieces of rubber, covered by nylon or wool, with an empty core filled with pressurized air. Moreover, all the balls must be in bright yellow. 


According to the ITF, a ball must have a diameter of 2.57 to 2.70 inches and weigh 1.975 to 2.095 ounces. These strict standards are applied in all tournaments within the ITF and also other amateur competitions. Therefore, players playing tennis in different places can have the same feeling of the balls, which maintains their performance form. 

However, balls used in the US are not high-quality, less durable, and less expensive compared to balls in Europe because US players tend to discard old balls after one or several sets. 


A standard tennis ball must bounce 53% to 58% of the dropping height on a concrete surface (or similar). In other words, if you drop a ball from 1m, it must bounce up 53 to 58cm. Any ball that doesn’t meet this requirement is discarded from play. 

During play, the balls contact players’ rackets and floors many times and decrease bounce level. The game organizing committee doesn’t measure the balls during the match, but players can feel it with their experience. 

Forward and return deformation

Similar to bounce, forward and return deformation is a standard to check whether a tennis ball can be used in a tournament or not. This standard is checked and determined during the production, not during play. 

The ITF determined a standard range that the balls’ diameter may vary after contacting and bouncing away from rackets or floors. In this requirement, the standard forward deformation is 0.220 to 0.291 inches for all four kinds of the balls, while the return deformation is 0.291 to 0.425 inches for type 1 and 0.315 to 0.425 inches for the others (see details here). 


Why should tennis players change balls after several sets?

A tennis ball is a bouncy ball with an empty core filled with pressurized air and a rubber cover. This cover is highly closed and consistent that air cannot go in and out in standard conditions. 

However, in a match, the ball contacts players’ rackets and the floor many times at high speeds, making it bounce and deform most of the game. Therefore, after many deforming times, several minor leaking appears on the cover, and some air goes out, decreasing the inside pressure and bounce level. No machine is used to measure it, but players can feel with their experience and discard the downgraded ball. 

Why do tennis players often hold three balls before serving?

Except for the first serving of the game, players often hold 3 to 4 balls before serving during the game. This habit is that they need to check which ball is new or still smooth and which one should be discarded. As a result, they often choose a ball to serve, discard one, and put the remaining into the pocket of their shorts. 

Why are tennis balls often bright yellow or green?

When the Indians developed the balls with rubber covers and pressurized air inside, a ball was often black or white. After several surveys, the ITF decided to change the uniform color of the ball to white or yellow in 1972 because these colors were easier to see via the screen. However, in 1986, Wimbledon chose yellow as the only uniform color and rejected all white balls. 

Some professors and players tried to bring back the white balls a few years later, but nothing happened, and tennis balls kept their yellow uniform color.  


Now we already have the answer to the question “what are the three physical properties of a tennis ball?” Moreover, after reading this article, you may know how to check if a ball is still in good condition or not. And if you see the above content is interesting, don’t forget to share it with your friends. 

Further Reading

Tennis Ball Properties

Physical and Chemical Properties of Matter