how long do tennis balls last

How long do tennis balls last?

The time it takes for tennis balls to become unusable depends on some factors, such as the level you play, what kind of tennis balls you buy, and, of course, your own standards.

In professional tennis, balls are replaced several times in a match. 

So, how long do tennis balls last?

If you are an amateur player, a can of tennis balls can last for as long as one month if you do not play frequently – tennis balls will last anywhere between 1 to 4 weeks for amateur players and 1 to 3 hours for professional players. 

As you play, and even when you don’t, balls will lose pressure. The harder you hit them, the faster they’ll lose their pressure and more frequently they will have to be replaced.

You should also take into account that you should play with balls that were designed for the surface you play in. If you clay court balls to a hard court, they will deteriorate faster and the playing experience won’t be so good.

Pressurized Balls Pressureless Balls
Competitive Play
1 to 3 hours
Not suitable
Recreational Play
1 to 4 weeks
1 to 3 years

Below we answer this question extensively, including different scenarios and a guide on how often to replace your tennis balls, and how to know when they’re not usable anymore.

Feel free to jump to any part of this article using the links below.

On this Article

Factors That Affect How Long Tennis Balls Last

Level Of Play

Competititive

Competitive tennis players hit balls at a much greater speed than recreational ones. Also, their standards regarding how much a tennis ball should bounce and its overall shape are greater. 

For these reasons, competitive players need to change tennis balls every 1 to 3 hours, for optimal conditions of play.

Recreational

Recreational players hit the balls at much slower speeds than professional ones.

While professional tennis players play almost every day, recreational ones usually play one to three times per week, and some not even every week.

Depending on the regularity of your tennis matches, you can expect to buy a new can of balls weekly to monthly.

Even if you don’t play that often, we recommend you replace your tennis balls every 1.5 to 2 months maximum – they’ll also lose pressure when you’re not playing with them,

Types of Tennis balls

Pressurized Balls

Pressurized balls are the ones that are typically played with. The expected times of replacement of tennis balls you see in this article refer to this kind of balls. 

They have a core full of air, and that’s what makes the balls bounce.  

As you play with them, the air inside escapes the ball, making them bounce less, and ultimately making them impossible to play with.

Pressureless Balls

Pressureless balls are the ones that are usually used in training, especially when kids are involved. 

They have a thicker rubber core, making them last longer than the pressurized ones, but also making them stiffer and unpleasant to play with – but maintaining their (somewhat poor) performance stabler for longer.

For this reason, we do not recommend you to play with them.

Court Surface

The type of court you play in also affects the ball’s performance and durability.

Tennis courts whose surface is more abrasive, like hard ones, will make the balls deteriorate faster than more gentle courts, like grass or clay. 

We reccomend you check our guide on the best tennis balls for different surfaces, so you can choose the right balls for the surface you will be playing on and make them last longer.

How Long Do Unopened Tennis Balls Last?

Unopened tennis balls last, at maximum, two years. 

That is because the pressure inside the balls can gradually leak through micro holes in the packaging, to the point where they became unplayable.

How Long Do Tennis Balls Last Once Opened?

If not used, tennis balls will last approximately one week while still being perfectly used in amateur competitions.

For recreational play, you can expect them to last about 1 to 1.5 months, if unused. 

We advise you to open your can of new tennis balls only when you intend to play with them, and not before.

how long tennis balls last once opened

How Often To Replace Tennis Balls And How To Know When They’re Not Usable Anymore?

Depending on how you use them, you should replace your tennis balls every week to every month.

There are a few factors that can help you decide when it is time to replace them:

Bounce

This is the main indicator you should use when evaluating if a tennis ball is not usable anymore and the main one that impacts playing conditions.

This can be evaluated by comparing it with another ball that was recently opened. This is an important comparisson since tennis balls bounce difer. While the Pro Penn Marathon do not bounce much, the Wilson US Open bounce a lot, for example. We recommend that you always compare with a fresh can of the same model you’re playing.

If the bounce is considerably lower it is “dead” and needs replacing.

Sound

The sound “dead” balls make is hollower than a good one.

When you hit a ball that is in good condition the sound it makes is “wacky”.

This can be a way to tell when you need to replace your tennis balls.

Squeeze

If you squeeze a tennis ball that is straight out of the can, you can see that it barely gives away. In contrast, a used tennis ball will squeeze almost all the way when pressed.

The amount of pressure you need to apply when squeezing to make it give away is directly proportional to how much it will bounce, the main indicator of when a tennis ball is used past its due date.

Felt

This one is a little trickier because balls can lose their felt almost on the first session.

But, the felt on a used ball is almost entirely gone VS a new ball, when you can almost see the little “hairs” that compose the exterior of a tennis ball.

What To Do With Old Tennis Balls?

An old tennis ball can have multiple uses – you just have to be creative.

Here are some ideas:

  • Store them to play tennis with experienced players or children. A good tennis ball is not suitable for this case, since it bounces way too much for them to be able to enjoy.
  • Give it to your dog (of a friend’s dog, if you don’t have one). Dogs love tennis balls!
  • Save them to help protect fragile items when packaging them.
  • Use it as a stress ball, by squeezing it.
  • Pierce the balls and put them on under the legs of chairs to stop them from scrapping the floor. Besides, you’ll have a new piece of art in your house!

To Wrap Up

Tennis balls last between one week to one month, depending on the surface you are playing and your level of tennis – assuming you are playing recreationally. If you are a professional tennis player or hit with near the speed pros do, tennis balls won’t last longer than 3 hours, and sometimes they are used after only one hour.

You will notice when a ball is not good enough to play with – it will bounce way less than you are used to. Squeezing the ball and the sound it makes when hit can also be strong indicators that its time is up.

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