The tennis ball is an integral part of the game (as you can imagine), and its design has evolved significantly over the past 100 years. In the early days of the sport, tennis balls were made of leather and filled with feathers, which made them heavy and difficult to control. They also needed to be changed frequently due to significant wear an tear.
It was the 1920s when the first rubber-based tennis balls were introduced, which were more durable and easier to hit than their feather-based counterparts. And it was here (1923) that Dunlop entered the market. These balls were made by moulding rubber into a spherical shape and then covering it with a thin layer of canvas or other fabric. The rubber core of these balls made them bouncier and more consistent than feather-based balls, which helped to improve the quality of play.
The innovation did not stop there though – In the 1950s, the first pressurized tennis balls were introduced, which were filled with a gas or air mixture and sealed in a rubber casing. These balls had a more consistent bounce and were less affected by temperature and humidity than traditional rubber balls. Almost unbelievably, pressurized balls are still used in modern tennis, although they have undergone several design changes to improve their performance. Well, we couldn’t have no progress at all, could we.
The introduction of synthetic materials like polyurethane and polyester in the 1970s and 1980s also had a major impact on the design of tennis balls. These materials allowed for the creation of more advanced balls that were more durable, consistent, and resistant to wear and tear. Today, most tennis balls are made of a combination of rubber, synthetic materials, and other high-performance materials. They also changed their colour (you may have noticed) from white to yellow – or green- No, it’s yellow. That’s because the Tennis balls you recognise today are quite simply, easier to see on Television and it was important for the sport that it could be broadcast on TV’s across the world.
You may not think it but the design of the tennis ball has come a long way in the past 100 years and we like to think we’ve played a bit part in that. Here’s to 100 more.