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Tennis & Racket Sports

Best Tennis Balls

All suitable tennis balls have to conform to standard size and weights restrictions. They have to be between 2.575–2.700 inches and they have to weigh between 1.975–2.095 ounces. I'm old enough to remember when tennis balls were all white, but in 1972 the current "optic yellow" (a vibrant chartreuse) was introduced and later became the standard. If you search, you can find tennis balls in other colors, but we'll stay with the basics here.

When you play tennis you have a wide range of options for tennis balls. The ball makers designate their products as being in the categories of recreational, championship, or professional. Serious tennis players will opt for championship or professional quality tennis balls, but the best tennis balls for you depend on your level of play and what you are going to be using the balls for. For example, if you are using a ball machine, then "practice" balls may be perfectly fine for you. These are often either used pressurized balls or new pressure-less balls.

If you are playing on a clay court, there are balls designed specifically for that surface. If you are playing at high altitudes, then it's important to consider high-altitude balls because regular pressurized balls will fly noticeably faster at 4,000 or more feet above sea level.

On a hard court it helps to look for heavy duty felt balls rather than regular duty, which will wear out faster and are better for softer surfaces. Here are the best choices for tennis balls as each of these picks meet the required above specifications, the quality of production is reliable, and their quality of play is consistent.

Penn ATP Extra Duty Tennis Balls

The Penn ATP has a very consistent feel and I've found it to maintain a little longer than the Wilson US Open tennis ball, which is the main reason it ranks first on the list. The ATP ball is used in ATP matches throughout the world and in three of the four biggest US tennis events each year. The ATP ball has SMART OPTIK felt that Penn says is 19 percent brighter than a standard tennis ball. The ATP Ball, like its cousin, the ProPenn, feels heavier and firmer than some other choices. If you're experiencing any elbow problems, going with something softer may be the better part of valor for the time being.

Wilson US Open Extra Duty Tennis Balls

This has been the official ball of the US Open since 1978 when the tournament moved from the West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills to the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows. The extra-duty ball plays very consistently straight out of the can. However, you may find that the bounce and feel of the ball subsides faster than you'd like.

Remember, in professional tournaments they bring in new balls after the first seven games, and then every nine games thereafter. So the pros are never hitting with what normal players would consider "used" tennis balls. Once you are in the second set, you’re using tennis balls that almost assuredly would have been swapped out in a pro match. If you are serious about the game, bring two cans to your match.

Penn Championship Extra Duty Tennis Balls

Penn Championship balls are one of the mainstays of what you'll find on tennis courts all over and one reason for that that some warehouse stores sell them in bulk. You'll find they play a little lighter and quicker than the Penn ATP or ProPenn and in hotter climates (think a dry summer day in Arizona) that extra zip might mean some of your shots are going to fly long. Still, this is a great go-to ball for most recreational, league, or tournament players. At the upper skill levels, players may find the ball less controllable than Professional-level balls from Penn or other brands.

Wilson Championship Extra Duty Tennis Balls

Brand loyalty plays a large part in which tennis ball you like, and for Wilson fans, the Wilson Championship extra-duty ball plays the same role as the Penn Championship extra-duty ball does for those who like Penn. Being upfront, I generally look for Penn, but I respect Wilson. The Wilson Championship ball is a consistently good ball for serious players and those just out for a little fun in the sun.

Here's a challenge for the serious players: open a can of Penn Championship balls and a can of Wilson Championship balls and mix them up. Close your eyes and pick them up and see if you can tell which is which other than by feeling the brand marking. I can tell which is which more often than not, but sometimes I get it wrong, which is a reminder not to blame the ball if you're having a bad day.

Penn Championship XD Tennis Balls

The Penn Championship tennis ball is the best selling tennis ball in the USA. It's a pressurized ball, and cheaper than the more durable, higher-quality Penn ATP or ProPenn. Still, it's a ball that will play well for at least two sets of most competitive singles at the NTRP 4.5 level or lower. After that, the Penn Championship ball is still good for the ball hopper and can serve for drilling practice for a long time to come.

Gamma Quick Kids 36 Foam Ball

If you're a junior who's 10 or under and just starting to learn tennis, your best practice ball is likely going to be the Gamma Quick Kids 36 foam ball. The ball is bigger than a usual tennis ball and designed to travel 75 percent slower than a typical ball. The 10 and under age group, especially 8 and under, is encouraged to play on a smaller court that's 36 feet in length, the width of a regular court including the doubles alleys. In a smaller court, you need a slower ball, and the Gamma Quick Kids 36 offers a soft experience giving youngsters a fun experience with a lot more positive results.

Penn Pressureless Tennis Balls

If you are looking for pressureless tennis balls, Penn makes good ones and you can purchase them generally in lots of 12, 24, or 48. The rubber on pressureless balls is thicker than in standard pressurized balls and this makes them last longer, particularly in ball machines. Pressureless balls do however feel more "dead" than pressurized balls; if you have arm troubles you may find them not to your liking. Penn pressureless balls come in a mesh netting for the 12 pack, and a nice bucket for the 48 pack.

Control Plus 3 Ball Can

The Penn Green Dot tennis ball is designed to travel 25 percent slower than its pressurized counterparts. Accomplished players don't need the extra time or the slower pace, so this is a ball that's really specific to beginners and some juniors. However, it’s good practice ball option for individuals who want more time on shots to set up and go through their motions. It's intended for use on a full court, rather than the shorter court dimensions now being favored for younger players. These balls are intended for youths aged 11 and up.

David Fogel
I'm an NTRP 4.5 level 50-year-old tennis player. My tennis career started late at age 14, but I made the La Jolla High School 1981 team in my senior year. My best tournament results were an "A"-level (now NTRP 5.5) USTA final in 1988 and a win in a match in the Hawaii State Open in 1987 over the #2 junior from American Samoa. Briefly, I was #2 in the San Diego seeding rankings in the NTRP 4.5s in September 2009. I keep exploring ways to improve my game, my fitness, and my on-the-court thinking. Hopefully I can help you too.
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