If selecting the right frame to play with is the most important buying decision for a tennis player, then selecting the right can of tennis balls comes in on a close second place. Buying the right tennis balls almost requires a complete degree of expertise as there are so many on the market. That’s why I want to help you in this specific guide and learn from my past mistakes and experiences, so that you buy your next tin with a lot more confidence.
Tennis balls are distributed and sold in three main categories: (absolute) beginner level, training level and match or tournament level. Not all shops will show you these different categories when buying, but it’s definitely something you want to keep in mind when stepping into the store. In addition to these categories, in recent years there have been developed a variety of tennis balls for kids training there are marked with different colors. Here, in Holland, we have orange, red and green dotted balls, where each new color means a step up in the learning curve and also the area that is being used on courts during kids competition matches. The idea is that kids gradually play their way to a ‘normal’ tennis ball and ‘normal’ tennis court.
There are two main ways of producing tennis balls:
- Pressurized (hence the sealed tin can’s that will make a distinctive sound upon opening the can)
The difference between these sets of tennis balls will mainly become apparent in:
Based on these main categories you could argue that some specifics of these balls are more suited towards specific tennis court surfaces. Logically, a pressurized tennis ball would have a higher bounce, and thus would be more suited for clay courts whereas a pressureless tennis ball would have a less higher bounce, making it more suitable for (artificial) grass courts. However, in my experience in playing and talking with a large number of customers, I have found that people make all sorts of choices to play with different sets of tennis balls on different surfaces.
Best pressurized tennis balls
The majority of tennis balls that are being produced are of course pressurized tennis balls. These are suitable for clay courts and hard courts but are being used by a lot of players on artificial grass courts too. Tennis balls for clay courts should obviously score good on ball bounce but also on durability as clay courts are the most intensive surfaces of all. The felt on the tennis balls should be of very good condition in order to play for a good amount of time.
My personal favourite tennis balls in terms of overall quality are the Dunlop Fort All Court (link to check it’s current price at Amazon). If found these to be absolutley the best quality overall. Their ball bounce can be a bit high, especially upon opening the can on the court and playing with them right away. The only downside too this ball that it could even be found a bit too high. Therefore (as with all the other pressurized cans) it is recommended that you open the can’s the day before playing a match or a tournament. The felt is of great condition and does not become looser any time soon. Even with a bit of rain drops these balls can still handle a clay court. It is only during the course of time and playing that the balls loose a bit of pressure. The Dunlop Fort ball also is the official competition ball of the KNLTB (the Dutch Lawn Tennis Association)
My second personal favourite is the Babolat Team Clay court (link to check it’s current price at Amazon), which used to be the official tournament tennis ball of Roland Garros (until signed a remarkable deal with Wilson). This really is a clay court champion that has one of the greatest ball bounces out there and has great felt that can stand the test of… well, clay and time. However, comparing it one on one, it might lose out a bit on durabilty compared to the Dunlop Fort.
My third personal favourite is the winner for value-for-money. This is the Wilson US Open (extra duty) (link to check it’s current price at Amazon) and although it’s being marketed as a hard court tennis ball, it’s being used very frequenty on the clay courts. It really has a decent bounce and feel to it, but it’s felt has a noticably shorter lifespan. That does not have to be such a problem if you play on normal, sunny days. But when a drop rain hits or the courts are still a bit humid, expect these balls to deteriorate very fast. That makes them a bit tricky in regard to value-for-money because if you use them on the wrong days, you could end up spending much more. In addition, lately Wilson has upgraded the prices of the Wilson US Open, which makes them less of a good deal. However, if you look good enough, you can still find sweet deals on these.
At this point, all my main favourites have been noted. However, I have been hearing great things of the Tecnifibre X-One (link to check it’s current price at Amazon). That’s why I want to review them as soon as possible and when I do, I’ll put up my findings here.