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While all tennis balls may look pretty similar, there is actually a wide variety of tennis balls on the market that serve different purposes and different levels of experience.
For example, there are different stages of tennis balls that are suited for different skill levels, from complete beginners to professionals and even specific options for children.
One such difference to look for is the type of tennis ball, which can be either pressurized or pressureless.
The distinction between the two is that one utilizes internal pressure while one has a solid rubber core; because of this structural difference, these types of balls feel different during play and are used in different situations.
For the purpose of this article, we will mainly focus on one of these types: pressureless tennis balls.
We will take a more in depth look at this type and answer such questions as “When should I use pressureless tennis balls?” and “How long do pressureless tennis balls last?”.
By the end, you should have a better understanding of this type of tennis ball and can decide whether this type of ball would be best for you.
Types of Tennis Balls
First, let’s more clearly define the two different types of tennis balls — pressureless and pressurized, or regular tennis balls.
Pressurized tennis balls are more common, and they are used by professionals and in tournaments.
Pressurized balls have an internal air pressure and are packaged in vacuum-sealed canisters that help them keep their internal pressure.
Because this type of ball utilizes air pressure, they have a better bounce, spin, and speed immediately after being opened.
However, the internal pressure fades rather quickly, so pressurized balls cannot be used for very long.
As the ball loses internal pressure, it softens and loses a lot of its bounce; it eventually goes dead and is no longer effective in game play.
Because the pressure fades, pressurized balls only last a maximum of 2 weeks, with some needing to be replaced after a single match depending on how rigorously they are used.
Pressureless balls are more often used by beginners, for practice, or for casual play because they do not have to be replaced as often as pressurized balls.
Pressureless balls have a solid core, and the bounce comes from the rubber shell structure rather than from internal air pressure.
As the ball is used more, the outer layer of felt starts to wear down, which actually causes the ball to become lighter and bouncier over time.
Because of their solid rubber core, pressureless balls are more durable and have a much longer lifespan than pressurized balls since they cannot deflate.
You can view this video to see what the core of a pressureless tennis ball looks like.
Pressureless Tennis Balls: Pros and Cons
One huge advantage to pressureless tennis balls is how long they will last.
We will discuss the longevity of this type of tennis ball more in depth later on in the article, but their durability also leads to other advantages.
Because they do not need to be replaced as often, pressureless tennis balls are more cost effective than pressurized tennis balls.
Pressurized tennis balls need to be replaced at least every two weeks but even as often as every match depending on how quickly they go flat and no longer bounce properly.
As a result, even though pressureless tennis balls cost a little more, pressurized tennis balls need to be purchased more frequently, so you will end up saving money in the long run by buying pressureless balls.
For this same reason, pressureless balls are usually the type of tennis ball used in a tennis ball machine.
If you were to fill a tennis ball machine with pressurized balls, they would all have to be replaced within two weeks because they would lose air; this would get quite expensive over time.
With pressureless balls, however, they last a while and even improve with play, so they are more ideal for ball machines.
Additionally, pressureless tennis balls are also suitable for all surfaces, whether you are playing on an indoor or outdoor court.
Another advantage is the consistency of the bounce once the ball has been broken in.
A pressurized ball starts with a good bounce, but it starts to lessen over time as the ball loses pressure.
Because pressureless balls do not rely on air pressure, the bounce stays more consistent and reliable over time so you can get used to exactly how much force you need behind your hit every time.
Pressureless tennis balls tend to have less bounce than pressurized tennis balls right out of the package because pressurized tennis balls are lighter, and the air inside makes them bounce higher.
Because the pressureless balls are heavier, they are also not as fast as pressurized balls.
Additionally, pressureless balls also have less spin response than pressurized ones.
While these disadvantages seem significant, they primarily apply to brand new tennis balls; as the tennis ball is broken in, these shortcomings have much less of an impact.
As a pressureless tennis ball breaks in, the exterior layer of felt starts to wear away and the rubber softens from recurring impact.
As this occurs, pressureless balls gain more bounce and speed because there is less drag on the ball, whereas a pressurized ball starts to lose its bounce and speed because it starts to go flat as it loses air.
A pressureless ball also gains a better spin response as it breaks in because of the felt wearing down.
Since the internal pressure of the ball is the same as the outside atmospheric pressure, the ball does not go flat, whereas a pressurized ball will lose this balance as the ball deflates and will not be able to maintain the same level of spin.
As such, the main disadvantages of the pressureless tennis balls become much less of an issue and are not as noticeable once the ball has been used for a while and is worn in.
One other disadvantage of a pressureless ball is that it is a harder on a player’s arm because of its heavier weight.
Hitting a pressureless ball is more jarring to the elbow and wrist than hitting a pressurized one because it is solid and heavy, and it is also more tricky to get a proper spin on the ball.
This is why pressureless balls are not used in tournaments.
As previously mentioned, pressureless balls are more ideal for practice or for recreational play because they last longer.
These balls are recommended for long-term use and for use with tennis ball machines.
However, keep in mind that pressureless tennis balls are not used in tournaments; if you consistently practice with pressureless balls, you will be used to hitting a heavier, more solid ball.
When it comes time for a game where you must use a pressurized ball, there may be an adjustment period as you get used to hitting the lighter ball.
To combat this, you can practice with pressureless balls the majority of the time but switch to practicing with the pressurized ball shortly before a match.
This will allow you to adjust to the pressurized ball in advance without sacrificing your game.
How long do pressureless tennis balls last?
One of the main advantages to using pressureless tennis balls is the longevity.
Pressureless tennis balls can last one to three years of moderate play.
This will vary based on the level and amount of play; if you play often and hit harder, they will last closer to one year, but if you do not play as often or are at a beginner level, they will likely last longer.
The felt may start to wear off of pressureless tennis balls since they can last several years.
This should not affect their use though because the core will remain solid, so you can continue using them after the felt has worn down.
As mentioned previously, a thinner layer of felt actually improves the bounce and speed of the ball anyway because there is less drag.
If you have been playing with the same pressureless balls for a while and are wondering if it is time to switch them out, you can take an old ball and a new ball and release them from the same height to compare the way they bounce.
If there is a major difference, you know it is time to buy some replacements.
Additionally, the pressureless balls may start to lose some of their elasticity over time and become harder, which would cause a greater impact on your arm.
While there is a general range of how long pressureless balls will last, it will be more up to your own discretion if they need to be replaced sooner or can last longer.
If they are not bouncing as well as they used to or are more uncomfortable to hit, it is probably time for a replacement.
Luckily, you will not run into these problems very often with pressureless tennis balls.
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