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The brains behind the balls: what are the best balls for tennis?

In this article I’ll take a sidestep from your ideal string setup and discuss another rather important part of the tennis game: the tennis ball. Without one, there will be no play! And without joking, because the ball and strings collide into each other, it really benefits you to know something about tennis balls and how they impact your game.

How are tennis balls made?

Let’s say you have just picked up your very first racket and you are a total newbie to the game. Congratulations first of all, tennis is the most beautiful game (in my modest personal opinion) and you’ve just joined the show! Let’s say that you actually don’t know anything about tennis yet, but I’ll bet you’ll know you need a can of tennis balls, right? Right, everybody has seen them probably once in their life, easily recognisable due to their flashy yellow colouring.

But do you know what makes a (modern) tennis ball and how tennis balls are actually made? Probably not, but no worries, you’ll read it al here.

What are the best balls for tennis?

While there are many ways of defining the best balls for tennis, I have found in my own experience of playing and observations that most people find the Wilson US Open the best balls for tennis in terms of price/quality.

Which tennis balls bounces the highest?

This is a tricky question because I have definitely not test all tennis balls out there on the market, but speaking from my own experience I have found that the Dunlop Fort (Max TP) tennis balls bounce the highest.

The bouncing effect is amplified if the pressurised can is being opened (with the famous isshing sound) just before starting a game. While this gives the best bounce on your balls, it is somewhat of an unwritten rule to open the cans the evening before play.

How many tennis balls come in a can?

Tennis balls are sold in tin or plastic cans. The cans are sold in 3-ball or 4-ball quantities, with the latter one of course being slightly more expensive. My recommendation is to buy a good set of 4 because chances are that you’ll lose a ball out of sight (regardless of your playing level) and having at least three balls to play with will not keep you collecting (2) balls all the time.

If your budget allows it, you can also order tennis balls in great quantities.

How long should tennis balls last?

This is also a tricky question, which ties in with how long your strings should last. It all depends on your frequency of play, playing level, hitting style and outdoor circumstances. Of course, if you hit long with harder groundstrokes, you’ll find your tennis balls to last a shorter time. In addition, if you play on gravel, which is considered to be the most intens surface for tennis balls, the tennis ball felt will deteriorate rather fast too. And last, some tennis balls might withstand the first few drops of rain better than others, but in general you’ll want to protect them at any cost from rain, because normally you can throw them away after becoming wet.

But let’s say you play two times a week, on average level and you have bought a durable set of balls, you play (mostly) on gravel and don’t let them lay around in the rain. My estimate would be that you are able to play one month without noticing any drop in quality. The second month you’ll find that the pressure in the balls drops quite noticeably.

Which tennis balls last the longest?

This is also a tricky question to answer, but I can only speak from my own experience and have found that, in order (most durable first), the Tecnifibre X-one, the Head ATP Tour and Babolat Team (clay) tennis balls last the longest.

What tennis balls do professionals use?

Professional tennis players hit with a great amount of pace and a lot of precision. Of course, they can keep this up a longer amount of time than almost anybody on court. That’s why pro’s normally only play just seven games with a set of tennis balls before the umpire asks for “new balls, please”.

However, there is not a definite set of tennis balls the professionals use. Most often, big tournaments have contracts with big brands and almost all the big brands produce a line of tennis balls that the pro’s can play with. To make things a bit more easy on the eye, I’ve made this table down below with all the tennis balls that are being used at the biggest tournaments.

Tournament Surface Ball brand Type
Australian Open Hard court Dunlop Dunlop AO Open
Roland Garros Clay Wilson Wilson x Roland Garros Clay Court
Wimbledon Grass Slazenger Slazenger Championships 2021
US Open Hard court Wilson Wilson US Open Extra Duty

What do numbers on tennis balls mean?

The numbers on a tennis ball represent the ‘set’ they belong to, helping you not to mix up the tennis balls from your court with the balls from your neighbours court. Many people think the numbers are indicators for a durability level of some sort of the balls, and while tennis balls can be classified in certain types, these numbers are not the ones you’ll find on tennis balls.

Let’s say you our playing with those good Wilson US Open Extra Duty balls you’ve just bought and want to take them for a test run… only to find that the players on the court next to you are playing with the exact same balls! Well, now you know, not exactly the same balls, because the numbers under the branding are different on each set. So, just check the numbers, next time your neighbour tries to ‘lend’ your newer set of tennis balls.

Why are tennis balls kept in the fridge?

Tennis balls are kept in the fridge, mostly court side, at big tournaments to preserve the internal pressure of the ball. The internal pressure of the ball is the main factor for ball bounce so you can understand why this is a very important factor at the world’s greatest tournaments.

And what about you? Do you have a favourite brand and type of tennis balls? Please let me know in the comments so I can update this article on a regular basis. Also, please don’t forget to mention the surface you play on and your playing level.


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My personal thoughts on using a vibration dampener in your racket

It surprises me every time when a customer comes to me and ask whether they should use a dampener in their racket. While it is a good question, it seems like they already know the outcome of what I’m about to say and assume they should probably play with a racket dampener. Well, wait a minute! No, or yes, but in any case, don’t be so sure until you have read this article and then decide for yourself!

What does a racket dampener do?

As the name of course implies, the intention of placing a racket dampener is to dampen the vibrations of your racket strings. However, vibrations occur in the frame too, all the way down to your arm.

Because the vibrations also create the famous “ping” of your stringbed, using a vibration dampener in your racket will also result in a lower “ping”, depending on the size, material and placement of your racket dampener.

Are racket dampeners good?

Because vibrations radiate throughout your racket frame (in 365 degrees), using a dampener technically dampens only a small bit of the vibrations. While this may definitely allow for a bit of a ‘smoother’ touch, the effect that we’ve attributed to using a dampener is a bit overdone in my opinion.

First, let’s touch on the main reason for installing the dampener and that is to allow for a softer feel of the frame, while swinging away. It is good to mention in this context that frames all have different stiffness ratings (RA-values) and that comparing these values upon buying a frame, will give you the best option to choose a smoother swing. Just like choosing a different choose for your ski’s or snowboard (and comparing stiffness values), you should pay attention to a racket’s flex.

Sometimes manufacturers even have built-in dampening features to prevent as much vibrations reaching your handle and arm as possible. Especially during recent years as the tennis game has evolved in a much more power driven game, this has been the case.

In addition, one of the most important factors that influence your stringbed stiffness is of course the stiffness of your strings. So choosing a more flexible string may be a way better (and logical) solution to having less vibrations, or feeling less vibrations, on impact.

Does using a racket dampener prevent tennis elbow?

No, there is (too) little evidence to support that using a racket dampeners prevents a tennis elbow.

Do tennis pros use dampeners?

Yes, there are actually quite a few tennis pro’s that use a dampener, although many use a different form of dampener. The most known player with a dampener in his racket must be Rafael Nadal. He plays with a a small, ‘button’ type, Babolat dampener.

Other pro’s may use longer form dampeners that actually do dampen quite a bit more of the main, center strings. A regularly seen example is pro’s using a quick and easy fix to dampen their strings by weaving a rubber band through the strings and tying them up. Andy Roddick used to do this in his Babolat Pure Drive.

Where do you place a vibration dampener?

According to ITF rules, players can place vibration dampeners anywhere outside the pattern of the cross strings. This means that they can be placed anywhere on the outer edges of the stringbed (left, right, bottom and/or top). Normally you will see them placed at the bottom of the racket where the center main strings and first cross string meet. While there is no strict limit on how many dampeners you can install, many players will just use one since there is little to no affect on using multiple dampeners (source:

Types of vibration dampeners

You can buy two types of vibration dampeners. One is shaped like a “button” you’d find on a shirt, fully made out of rubber. These are placed pretty easily but only cover about two main, center strings. The effect of these button type dampeners is therefore also less.

The other main type is the “band” type dampener, either in the form of a prefabricated rubber that easily allows the main strings to be covered by the dampener or in the form of an elastic band (either an “wormlike” solid band or an postal elastic band). Because they are woven through the main strings and normally cover more than two main strings, the effect of these bands are a bit greater than of a button dampener. On the downside, they are a bit more difficult to install.

Conclusion: should I use a vibration dampener?

Now that you have all the information, you should be just really test some dampeners and see if it is something that fits your game, or better yet, your ears… As mentioned in this article, the actual dampening effects on vibrations through the use of a dampener in your racket actually is quite small, but a dampener can definitely take the pitch out of your “ping”. If that’s something you’d be interested in, go for it. If not, you are probably better of just by taking a bigger interest in your string setup.

What about your experience? Do you personally play with a vibration dampener? And why? Did I miss anything in this article? Please let me know down in the comment section.

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How to pratically select the best gauge of string for your racket

Selecting the best strings for your racket is one of the most important tasks when it comes to taking care of your racket. Not only are there quite a few different materials to choose from, they are available in different sizes. Racket strings are made in different thicknesses, called gauges. The thicker the gauge, the more durability and control, while the thinner the gauge, the more power and comfort. In the end string gauge is a personal preference with various advantages and disadvantages on both ends of the spectrum, which I’ll explain further in the rest of this article.

Basic gauge sizing for tennis rackets

To start things off, let’s take a look at all the gauge sizes out there, with their respective international indicators. As you can see, it’s not the most logical way of putting things in order, so take a moment to study the different labels and diameters.

U.S. International Diameter (mm)
13 12 1.65-1.80
14 11 1.50-1.65
15 9.5 1.41-1.49
15L 9 1.33-1.41
16 8.5 1.26-1.34
16L 8 1.22-1.30
17 7.5 1.16-1.24
18 7 1.06-.1.16
19 4 0.90-1.06
20 3.5 0.80-0.90
21 3 0.70-0.80
22 2.5 0.60-0.70

Because some gauge labels can overlap with respect to their diameter (mm), we tend to stick with the diameter (just as ERSA does) as the best way to describe and classify different string gauges. However, on packaging materials, you’ll normally find the U.S. labels.

Common gauges and recommendations

We’ll take a deeper dive into string gauges in the rest of the article, but I wanted to see if I could simply things a bit at the start here. Now there are no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to racket gear but here are the most common gauges and who I’d recommend each for.

  • 15/1.40mm: Thickest gauge; best for advanced players looking for maximum durability and control. However, these strings might be considered so durable that the trade-off with ‘feel’ and spin potential might be a bit too much.
  • 16/1.30mm: Medium-thick gauge; best for heavy hitting competitive players who break strings frequently.
  • 16L/1.28mm: Medium gauge found in Luxilon strings; best for competitive players looking for a blend of power and control.
  • 17/1.25mm: Medium thin gauge; best for beginner, intermediate and all-round players who are looking for power and comfort.
  • 17L/1.20mm: Thin gauge; best for players looking for increased touch and feel and don’t mind spending a bit more on restringing.
  • 18/1.15mm: Thinnest gauge; best for players wanting maximum touch and feel and will have to restring very often.

Please keep in mind though that this is a basic overview and that a lot of players tend to deviate from this, for their own specific reasons (whether that is in their benefit or not).

A bit of theory on string gauges and their “ping”

When you string two identical rackets with different gauge of the same strings and perform the palm test (meaning you use the palm of your hand to ‘clap’ your racket and hand together) with the strung rackets, the thinner gauge will have a higher “ping”. Most people would logically assume the thinner string is tighter.

Even though little difference is found when measured statistically (i.e. RA test), the racket with the thinner gauge may feel less stiff in play, due to a greater elasticity of the thinner string. Generally a 17 gauge string will be about twice as elastic (100%) as a 15 gauge string, all other factors being equal. This increased elasticity results in lower dynamic stiffness (meaning the strings will feel more elastic) during ball contact.

A player changing to a thicker string (for greater durability, for example) may complain the that the “ping” isn’t the same as with his thinner gauge string. However, increasing tension to reproduce that harmonic pitch would probably result in a stringbed stiffness too hard for his liking. So the main takeaway here is: string for feel, not for the “ping”. Don’t focus too much on sound…

String gauge and performance

Of course, knowing string gauge isn’t all that helpful if you’re not clear on how the thickness of a string impacts performance. There are three main factors players usually consider when selecting a string gauge: durability, spin potential, and feel.


When comparing different gauges for the same string, the heavier the gauge or thicker the string will be more durable and long-lasting.

When you play tennis, your strings produce friction at the cross-sections where they overlap each other. Over time you’ll notice that your strings cut into each other and begin to notch, so naturally, the thicker they are, the longer they’ll last. Thicker strings can also withstand greater impact, which helps extend the life, too.

However, when it comes to durability, keep in mind that a wide variety of factors can influence the longevity of a string, including material, construction, tension, and a string pattern’s density.

All else equal, thicker strings are more durable, and it’s a great rule of thumb to use when evaluating strings.

Spin potential

Beyond durability, players also rely on their string gauge to influence their racket setups for generating spin. The thinner the string, the more potential for spin, while the thicker the string, the less spin potential.

Thinner strings bury themselves deeper into the ball, and as a result, “grab” the ball a bit better, which results in more spin. A thicker string has less “bite”, resulting in a lower potential for spin.

However, just because you have thin strings doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to generate massive spin. It’s one of many factors that can influence spin. However, your grip, technique, and racket head speed will have the most significant influence over spin. Also, keep in mind that when players step on the court with the idea of having a string optimised for “spin”, they tend to hit the ball with a lot more spin themselves, which actually generates more spin (but from stroke technique, and not from the string itself).


Another area where you’ll notice changes with different gauge is the feel of the strings as many players report enhanced feel with thinner strings. Of course, this is a personal matter per definition.

I happen to love the sensation of a 16L gauge string, even in a more durable option like polyester, I tend to break them fairly easily, so 16 is the lowest gauge I typically string.

Which string gauge should you use?

Every player’s needs and preferences are different. With this in mind, you can keep in mind a variety of factors when evaluating strings and determining which is best for you.

Types of string

The type of string your using frequently has an impact on the gauge that you choose. Here’s a brief look at the different types of strings:

  • Natural gut: high power, comfort, tension maintenance, exceptional feel, prone to breakage, and susceptible to moisture
  • Synthetic gut: mid-range tennis strings offering well-rounded performance across the board, typically lack durability
  • Multifilament: the synthetic alternative to natural gut, these strings offer power, comfort, and hold their tension well
  • Polyester: low powered spin-friendly strings that are stiff and durable, but tend to lose their tension quicker than other strings
  • Kevlar: the most durable strings that maintain their tension well

As you read the descriptions, it might begin to make sense why you might consider a higher or lower gauge for each. For example, you might string with a lower gauge (thicker) tennis string if you’re using synthetic or natural gut to help increase the durability or life of your strings. Whereas, if you’re using polyester strings, you may opt for a higher gauge (thinner) option to help maximize spin.


If you can’t afford to string your racquet frequently, I’d recommend you string with a thicker or low gauge string to help avoid breakage and increase your strings durability. Racket stringing can be expensive (though here at our platform we try to provide every customer with a fair price), especially when you take into consideration the labor to string your racquet. You can go thicker, but 16 will usually do the trick while helping maintain solid playability and spin potential.

If you want to play with a thinner gauge, but budget is a limiting factor, you may want to consider using string savers to get the benefit of a higher gauge without breaking the bank. However, personally I do not recommend using them as they might limit ‘snapback’ from the strings.

What about your own experiences with string gauge? What is the size you play with? Are there any combinations you’d recommend out of your own experience? Please let me know in the comment section down below.

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My personal do’s and don’ts on how to measure your racket grip size

One of the most asked questions in my shop is: how do I know what grip size to choose when buying a racket? Now this is a great question because determining grip size for your racket is essential for playing. But the question is unfortunately only asked by somewhat half of the people; the rest just walks away with a racket, resulting in me running them down and explaining grip size…

Now why is choosing the right grip size essential for playing? Determining the correct grip size for your racket can prevent

  1. arm problems
  2. losing points

Pretty relevant to the game, right? So let’s dive in and check those grip sizes.

How to measure your tennis racket grip size?

There are two ways that people measure grip sizes and I would say one is the quick and easy one, and the other is the more sophisticated form of measuring. Let’s start with the first option.

Now grab your racket like you would give somebody a hand and then fold your fingers around the grip do the same with your thumb but then point your thumb in the direction of the top of the racket, so that your thumb is parallel to the frame. You’ll notice a gab between the top of your fingers and the start of your hand palm (if not, skip the rest, you’ll most likely have too small of a grip size already).

If you can place a pink to a normal finger in between that space, you’ll know that you have roughly selected the correct grip size. However, when in doubt, always go for the smaller grip size because you can easily up that size by half a grip size by using an overgrip. If you’d wish to go up a full size, you can even ask a stringer to place a shrink sleeve.

The second method to measure grip size is more of an exact science. You’ll need a ruler or measuring tape for this one and start by placing the ruler against the top of your middle finger and place it so that it follows a straight line down the middle of the finger, all the way down to the second hand line. The number that you’ll find will correspond with your ‘perfect’ grip size.

I use quotation marks here because I have seen a dozen of customers finding a number that actually surprises them because they have been playing for years with another grip size. Sometimes this actually explains some of the difficulties that they have had with their grips, but sometimes they seem to have had no issues or difficulties. It seems that some players have adjusted grips that make up for choosing a ‘incorrect’ grip size, so that cramping or slipping do not become and issue.

How to measure your badminton racket grip size?

Basically, the correct way to measure your badminton racket grip size follows the same principle as for any other racket. So start by wrapping your hand around the grip like you would give a person a hand and focus on the space that follows between the start of your fingers and the start of your handpalm (at the thumb). When you see a space of roughly the size of your pink or a normal finger in between, you have approximately found the correct grip size for you.

Now while the principle of measuring is the same, the actual measurements differ from tennis rackets. Badmintonracket grip sizes are not measured in (US) ‘L’ sizes, but in ‘G’, followed by a number. Now, as opposed to tennis racket grip sizes, larger badminton racket grip sizes are indicated by a smaller number. So basically, a G4 grip is smaller than a G1 grip. I’ve placed the complete breakdown of grips for badmintonrackets in the table down below.

Grip Indication Length (in mm)
Extra small G5 83
Small G4 86
Medium G3 89
Large G2 92
Extra large G1 95

How to measure your squash racket grip size?

Unlike tennis and badminton rackets, adult squash rackets are not sold in different grip sizes. There are different models for young children, junior’s and adults but this sizing of course applies to the complete frame, instead of just smaller or bigger grip.

So with that being said, there are definitely some principals to take in mind when working on your squash racket grip. Basically, squash players build up or shrink down their grips using a combination of replacement grips and/or overgrips.

Start with taking the racket in to your hand as you’d swing away on a ball and then firmly wrap your fingers around the racket (just as you would on tennis or badminton frame). Now, focus on the top of your fingers touching the base of your thumb (the start of your hand palm). If the fingers can slightly reach and touch it, your grip is ok. If you can press in your thumb too much, your grip is too small.

While using a combination of replacement grips and overgrips is fine for testing purposes, usually it’s best to ask a stringer or racket technician to custom fit a shrink sleeve to your frame if you definitely want to go up one full grip size. This is because the application of a shrink sleeve is a much more solid build than wrapping two replacement grips on top of each other.

What is the most common tennis grip size?

The most ‘common’ tennis grip size is (L)2. However, this would be the median of men and women’s grip sizes. Women usually play with a grip size 1 or 2, and men in most cases choose 2 or 3. These numbers are based on observations of selling hundreds of rackets to customers throughout my retail experience.

Can you change racket grip size?

Yes, you can definitely change the grip size of your racket and there are some ways of doing it. Some are more durable than other and increasing your racket grip size is always easier than reducing your grip size.

How do I increase my tennis grip size?

You can increase your racket grip size the ‘quick and easy’ way or the ‘slow and steady’ way. My quick tip for anyone really looking to do a basic grip size upgrade is too look out for one of the thicker replacement grips on the market. Not all replacement grips are created equal and some are definitely more thicker than others. Leather replacement grips for example are probably the thinnest replacement grips on the market. With a reason, because they allow for the best ‘contact’ of your hand with the frame. Some players prefer this feeling, which means their grip size is closest to the original frame grip size. If you notice you have a thinner replacement grip, try wrapping a thicker one one for a change and see how you like it.

Next option is to add overgrips. Now I don’t recommend adding overgrips without reason, so make sure the finish on the overgrip is one that you like or need for your playing style. For example, I tend to sweat in my hands while playing, especially on those humid, sunny days. I just need an absorb overgrip for that. I’ve tried a lot of different grips during the years, but I just can’t find anything that prevents my hands from slipping any better than an absorb overgrip. So to make the grip thicker I could just wrap around another overgrip, right? Basically, yes. But the problem is that you keep rounding up your grip each time you overgrip so you’ll definitely loose a bit on the ‘connection’ to your frame. So my advice is to never wrap more than a maximum of two overgrips on top of each other.

If you want to have a more durable solution for increasing your racket grip size, you will want to buy a set of slink shreeve material. It is a commonly used material in electrical wiring repairs but does have a slightly different function on a racket’s frame. Because you can slide the flexible shrink sleeve over your current racket grip, heat it up using a heat gun, and then let it shrink to become a solid sleeve on top of your frame, with this solution you can be sure that you’ll have a stable base for rewrapping your replacement and overgrips.

How much does an overgrip add to grip size?

Placing an overgrip normally adds about half a size to a racket’s grip size. That’s why it is a good idea to, when in doubt about whether to choose a smaller or larger grip size, always to choose the smaller grip size because you can test if you approximate your ‘perfect’ grip by adding half a size using an overgrip.

How do I reduce my tennis grip size?

Reducing a grip size is quite a bit more of a challenge. Of course, if you have followed increasing your grip size using one of the methods described above you can just reverse order the actions described and reduce your grip size that way. On the other hand, let’s say you just bought a used frame of Ebay in an actually bigger grip size and wonder what to do next, there is one option left and that is sanding down the polyurethane grip bezels. It’s a tricky one but it can definitely be done with a bit of patience. Now this is something I’ll create another article for anytime soon, where I’ll fully document and photograph the proces of doing that the wright way.


While racket grip sizes and increasing or decreasing them definitely is not an exact science, there is more to it than you might think. Just like wearing the proper shoes can save you a lot of trouble down the road with your feet and legs, will proper grips act like a solid base for your racket game. So my advice would be not to overthink them too much, but just take the tips mentioned in this article, apply them quickly and start testing what grip size and grip works best for you.

What about your experiences with grip sizes? Have you been playing too long with too small of a grip size? Resulting in any arm injuries? Or maybe you have too big of a grip size resulting in a lot of slipping and lost points? Let me know in the comments and help each other out.