The all too familiar routine ahead of the service, as the tennis player will be given two, three, or even as much as four balls by the tournaments ball boy or girl. A scan of each individual ball then takes place by the player and any that do not meet his or her standards will be tossed aside for the ball boy or girl to pick up and wait for the start of the play. We have all mimicked this action before, imagining we were under the spotlight of the Arthur Ashe Stadium prepping for a big service at the US Open. But have you ever thought about what the players are thinking about when they are choosing?
What’s the difference between the balls that make the players cut and those that get tossed aside until the next time to choose? Most tennis balls are much the same. Inside a rubber core containing pressurized air. On the outside, a fuzzy yellow felt shell. At the US Open, the balls played by men and women are different in just one way. Women use Wilson Regular Duty with Red Wilson logo and a Black US Open print and Men use Wilson Extra Duty version with black Wilson logo and a red US Open Print, they are both the same size Type 2, but the regular duty balls used by women are a little sleeker with shorter fibres and play a little faster because of this.
With longer fibres extra duty balls have more protection from being bashed around in use making they’re fuzzy felt even fluffier. In order to minimize perceived drag as the ball soars in the air across the court, male players will tend to go for the most unfluffed tennis balls as possible however slight the differences may be. Since female players play with regular duty balls and do not suffer from “fluffiness” as often they have less need to check each ball as intently.
Players on Choosing Tennis Balls
- Although many players acknowledge that it probably does not make much of a difference which ball they choose, this long-held tennis ritual has built up a power of superstition that all players take a part in. “But I’m convinced in my head that it does,” said Novak Djokovic, who always seems to take an extra ball or two, only to dismiss them quickly. “You try to take your time, get a little focus, and I look for a faster ball” Said Djokovic when asked on his thoughts during choosing a ball.
- Tsonga has been seen before accepting three balls, then hit one back. He walked toward the other ball person, got two more and quickly knocked them both back. Then he served only to later joke that it was simply a matter of obsessive-compulsive behaviour, contagious on the professional tours.
- Andy Roddick who can be considered one of the best to ever Serve in the Pro Tour would look at several balls resting on his racquet as if he was a chef holding an omelette pan looking for the right one.
- Caroline Wozniacki tends to go the other way and often serves the fluffiest ball if her opponent is known as a strong returner, believing that a slower return is more advantageous than a faster serve.
- Former player Conchita Martínez would sometimes ask for the same ball back after a winning point.
- Goran Ivanisevic would also want the ball back after he would serve an ace.