These tennis balls have been in the market since 1955 and have been vital in the development of basically every tennis player playing today and can be credited as a pioneer of the sport itself.
They are one of the most helpful inventions in the history of the sport and are an important part of any pro’s training. We’ve been going on about how important they are for so long, but we still haven’t gotten to the meat of this article: What are pressureless tennis balls?
In short, they are tennis balls that have a solid core rather than compressed air but we are sure you want to know a little more about them if you are interested in tennis.
The History of Pressureless Tennis Balls
Before we get into the technicalities, advantages and disadvantages of pressureless tennis balls, we need to know a little about their history and how they came to be what we know and use today.
To simplify and sort things so it is easier to follow, let’s use a timeline sorted by the type of ball used:
1. “Real Tennis”
Tennis balls as we know them today can be credited to Charles Goodyear. In the 1870s, he invented vulcanized rubber. To say that this was a game-changer would be a gross understatement.
Making balls with vulcanized rubber allowed them to be filled with pressurized air which was a great alternative to the uber-expensive wool used to fill the balls and even higher-priced high-quality leather to make the covering.
In case, you were wondering how the general population played tennis…they did not. Tennis was one of the various sports known as “the sport of kings” meaning that only royals were able to play the sport due to the financial strain involved.
After some time, there was an increasing desire to play tennis amongst the general public. However, the high cost of tennis balls prohibited them from part-taking in the activity, and soon many people started using unsavory methods to make these balls.
In fact, things got so bad in France that King Louis XI, also aptly known as Louis the Prudent, had to prohibit the use of any material other than wool and leather in making balls.
What caused this? People used to fill the balls with gravel, sand, chalk and sawdust to fill the balls. Needless to say, these balls were super dangerous.
Nowadays, this version is referred to as real tennis whereas the modern version which we play today was first introduced as “lawn tennis.” But with the unreasonable cost of the sport, how was it made possible for the average people to play tennis?
2. Vulcanized Rubber
Enter Goodyear and a touch of German ingenuity. Vulcanized rubber was used to make tennis balls and this heavily decreased the cost of these balls as the expensive wool and leather were now finally out of the picture.
The general people could now afford this amenity and people started to play in their Victorian lawns. Thus, it was called “lawn tennis.”
However, these had one crucial flaw; they bounced around way too much. This made them very hard to train with. People put up with this inconvenience for almost a hundred years because to be fair, they didn’t know any better.
3. Tretorn and pressureless tennis balls
Jump to the 20th century and Tretorn was a big name in the tennis scene. By this time, real tennis was all but buried and we started referring to lawn tennis as simply tennis.
Tretorn had been a big producer of shoes and had a significant influence on the market. This fact helped them make a foray into the tennis market and boy, was it a success.
Tretorn soon started to gain more traction and immense success. Their tennis shoes and balls were one of a kind and dominated the market for a while.
This meant they were slowly making the money to conduct research and development and by 1955, they had cracked the code.
We’re finally there. Pressureless tennis balls were now a reality. Tretorn introduced the market to an invention that changed the sport forever.
So let’s get to the technical bit that helps us answer the question: What are pressureless tennis balls?
How Are Pressureless Tennis Balls Made?
Well, that was a history lesson and a half. Now, this is a slightly boring part of the article. We tried our best to keep the jargon to a minimum so it’s easy for you to follow.
1. The Core
The primary difference in the construction of pressureless tennis balls and traditional tennis balls is their core. How are their cores different?
With the various new advanced ways to compress air, the traditional balls are filled with more air and so have an immense amount of pressure inside of them.
In sharp contrast, the pressureless tennis balls, as the name would suggest, don’t rely on air pressure at all. They have a rubber core packed in micro-particles. This is still pressured, just not with air. So, we understand that the name may be a little confusing.
2. Vulcanized Rubber
As you already know, both balls are made of vulcanized rubber. It was a great innovation back in the day and still is to this day. It expands well, is hard and durable and is therefore the perfect material to this day.
Other materials can’t meet both those requirements and so can’t achieve the right rigidity and bounce.
3. The Exterior
The fabric exterior is the same for both balls as well since the fuzzy fabric adds perfect friction with the tennis court and gives a satisfying feel.
Again, there are few substitutes to this fabric and none are cheaper or better in quality.
Advantages Of Pressureless Tennis Balls
Next up on “what are pressureless tennis balls?” we talk about the advantages of using these balls over playing with conventional ones.
1. Barely any bounce
Now you must be wondering; this sounds more like a disadvantage than a benefit. Well, we’ve been saying from the beginning; these balls are meant for practice.
They bounce less because of their added weight from the rubber core and the missing air particles, agitating the ball if you will.
With less bounce, you learn how to track the ball better and because of the low bounce, these balls need a harder hit- this helps power gauging.
These are without a doubt the perfect balls for practice and a good training measure for beginners to understand the game.
You can lock these away in a storage bunker in case of a zombie apocalypse as weapons because these balls are not deflating like the pressure systems because, well, they don’t have any air in them.
This makes these balls infinitely cheaper as a single ball can last you through multiple games. It’s important to note that the outer fabric is still the same so over-usage will still discolor the iconic green tint.
3. Low maintenance
Almost an extension of the previous advantage; due to their longevity, these balls barely need any maintenance. You can keep them anywhere without those pesky vacuum-sealed containers.
Furthermore, you can use them on any surface since they can retain the bounce from surface to surface. Pretty neat, isn’t it?
Disadvantages Of Pressureless Tennis Balls
Although they are a great innovation, they are not without their faults. Let’s take a look at these flaws and assess how they affect your experience.
1. Barely any bounce
This is a double-edged sword. Great for practice but horrible for competitive games.
Just imagine how boring and slow tennis would be if Nadal and Federer waited for the ball to bounce to them rather than having to keep their reflexes sharp all match to make every shot.
The lack of bounce ruins the fluidity and overall speed of the sport and makes it way less exciting and lowers the stakes big time. You don’t go to a bike race with training wheels.
Injuries are common happenstance in tennis. In fact, in Australia, there are 5 injuries per thousand hours of players and those Aussies fight off alligators and snakes daily. The second part may not be a verified stat.
A pressureless ball increases the chances greatly as players need to hit the ball with a lot more force and this exerts an immense amount of pressure on the shoulders, elbow and wrist.
This results in injuries such as repetitive strain injuries on the wrist and the dreaded tennis elbow and tennis shoulder, two aptly named injuries.
Well, there you have it. An A to Z on pressureless tennis balls. Now, you know their history, composition, advantages and disadvantages. You can not only answer the question “what are pressureless tennis balls?” You can write a thesis paper on it, or so we hope.
This topic may seem boring at first glance but is a fun and interesting concept once you give it a chance. We hope that this article did not fail to show you that.