Why Do Tennis Players Check The Ball Before Serving?

 Today we’re going to be talking to you about the importance of checking your balls. Now, stop laughing, we’re not talking about the topic you’re thinking of (although for health purposes, it’s also vital that you do that regularly as well). No, the balls we’re talking about checking today are your tennis balls before serving.

Why Do Tennis Players Check The Ball Before Serving?

If you’ve ever watched a game of tennis before, you’ll probably have noticed how the player about to serve will examine several different tennis balls before deciding upon one or two to use. Usually, they’ll have the ball boy or girl hand them three or four tennis balls and will then choose the ball which they consider to be best.

A ball's behavior will depend on a variety of factors, such as the weather conditions, altitude and temperature, resulting in the player examining each ball before deciding on the best fit.

But why do tennis players check the ball before serving? Let’s find out.

Are All Tennis Balls the Same?

Tennis players will usually examine several different balls before they make a serve. They will most often keep an extra ball in their pocket. To some, this may seem unusual, as surely all tennis balls are the same, right? Wrong.

Tennis balls are filled with compressed air and are coated with soft green/yellow colored hairs on the exterior. The pressure inside the ball plays a vital role in how the ball bounces. Different surfaces will result in the ball bouncing at different heights, speeds and spins. As well as that, over time the pressure inside tennis balls is reduced, meaning that the ball won’t bounce as high, or travel as far with each shot.

As for the exterior of the ball, the hair/fur also plays a key role in how it behaves. New balls have smoother, flatter hairs whereas older balls have fluffier, rougher hairs. With really old balls, the fur may be worn down completely, though professional tennis players will likely never encounter this issue.

When checking tennis balls, players are typically looking at the hair, and checking the air pressure and bounce.

Why Do Tennis Players Check Balls Before Serving?

So, we know that most tennis balls of one kind, are created pretty similar, so why do tennis players check different balls before serving, and what are they looking for?

Primarily, they’re going to be checking the fur/hair on the exterior of the ball. New balls are usually smoothed flat and are more streamlined. This means that the ball will travel faster through the air, allowing the player to hit a pacey serve.

The downside is that players will get less grip on their serve and the ball can therefore behave erratically. Accuracy is therefore sacrificed for speed. Older balls are fluffier and easier to control. This is useful for serves where you really need to be accurate, much older balls though tend to be even  smoother than the new ones, at that stage its apparent that the ball should fly faster, but we also need to consider the ball's pressure.

Why do Players Keep a Second Ball in Their Pocket?

Usually, tennis players will keep a second ball in their pocket before starting a new point, and nearly always, this ball will be fluffier than the ball they are planning to hit their first serve with. They will usually use this second, fluffier ball if they need to hit a safer, more controlled second serve.

The reason for this is that fluffier tennis balls will grip the racket better when struck, and will be more accurate. When hitting a second serve after a fault, the player obviously cannot afford a double fault. They will therefore sacrifice power for accuracy.

Not only that, but keeping the more accurate ball in their pocket will save time. At Grand Slams, players can take up to 25 seconds before serving. By having a ball in their pocket ready to go, they can compose themselves and decide what kind of serve to hit next to ensure they have the best chance of avoiding a double fault.