Not All Tennis Balls Are Equal

Keep your eye on the ball. That’s the mantra for tennis players, from beginners to whoever lands in the finals at this year’s United States Open.

But each ball will be seen only briefly because in tournament play, six balls are used to start a match, then ditched after seven games; for the rest of that match, the balls will be replaced after every nine games. (The Open generally stocks about 100,000 new balls and goes through about 70,000 each year.)

Those life spans, punctuated by the chair umpire’s call for “new balls, please,” are necessarily brief because the balls take a beating. In the course of a ball’s court time, the pummeling causes them to get fluffier as their hairs shake loose. This slows them as they travel through the air, making it easier to control placement but more difficult to blast a winner.

The balls are changed regularly to maintain consistency of play, but also used balls feel heavier on the racket, requiring more wrist, elbow and shoulder torque to generate power. Changing them reduces the risk of injury.

Players are acutely aware of the way the balls degrade.

Then the players need to adjust again when the new balls arrive.

Also, modern synthetic strings last longer, but they may be past their peak well before they break. So while some players change rackets for new balls because they feel it’s advantageous, others simply use the balls as an automatic reminder to grab a fresh stick.

“With more explosive frames, rackets and strings that can grab the ball more to create spin, players can now feel the slightest change in tension,” McEnroe said. “There’s definitely more awareness of adapting when the new balls come in, and I think some players tinker more with their tactics as a ball goes through its life span.”

In addition to switching rackets, many players change their game plan when the new balls arrive.

The faster balls give the biggest advantage to the server, who can pound first serves or skid them out wide to win quick points, McEnroe said.

Sahred From Source link Sports

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