Tennis…..It’s all just a load of balls anyway!

An insulting gift of tennis balls offered to King Henry V, according to William Shakespeare, was the final straw that led to the re-igniting of the 100 years war. This is the bard’s reference to the insult, “When we have match’d our rackets to these balls, we will, in France, by God’s grace, play a set.”

Obviously Henry needed to have the ‘set’ sanctioned by the ITF for it to have counted for anything, but it is doubtful if the rebellious French would have accepted the ITF rules.

Each year 300 million tennis balls are produced in factories in Southeast Asia, and except for those which find their way onto towing hitches on SUV’s, or on to the bottom of the legs of institutional chairs, they wind up as a part of the 14,700 tons of non biodegradable waste dumped into land fills around the world. With one important exception! The good folks at Wimbledon collect all the used tennis balls and use them as field houses for the near extinct harvest mouse. Maybe we can induce the equally good folks at the Australian Open to collect their used balls and to use them as homes for baby Koala bears. Somewhere in the world there must be millions of kids who would love to have a used tennis ball to kick along the gutter, or to dribble along the street. Learning to play soccer with an old tennis ball is a part of growing up.

Modern tennis balls are made in two colours, white and yellow, the yellow colour was adopted after intensive research was performed to determine which colour ball was the easiest to distinguish on TV. These colours are the only ones approved by the USTA and the ITF. The standards under which tennis balls are manufactured are set by the ITF, and they cover diameter, weight and bounce. A ball must bounce back to 56% of the height from which it has been dropped onto a concrete slab, to comply. All balls lose their bounce as soon as they are released from their pressurized containers. Have you often wondered why they change balls after a specific number of games? It’s because the balls lose their bounce, and have the effect of becoming heavier. In fact the weight of the ball does not change, unless one considers the slight negligible loss of the weight of the felt cover through abrasion with the court surface. Roger Federer now changes his racket to coincide with the change of balls. The numbers stencilled onto the balls have no meaning to the game’s participants, they are only there to identify the balls in use. If Rafael Nadal hits a ball out of court, he wants to be sure that the people on the adjacent court send him back his correct ball. It’s a as simple as that. I don’t know about you, but I love the smell of tennis balls!


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