How Many Tennis Balls Are Used In A Match?

Tennis balls are everywhere.

As of 2020, a whopping 325 million are produced every year.

Unfortunately, a lot of used tennis balls end up on landfill sites, but in recent years, there does seem to be a more concerted effort to recycle and find creative ways to reuse them.

The reason for the high turnover of tennis balls is that they don’t last very long.

They lose their bounce fairly quickly as the pressurized air inside the ball gradually leaks out over time.

At the recreational level, you might get a couple of matches out of one set of balls, but at the pro level, they change them a lot more frequently.

In this article, let’s take a look at how many tennis balls are used in a match (at the pro level) as well as some stats on the total number used in each Grand Slam.

How many tennis balls are used in a match? Check out this article to discover the answer.

How many ball changes are there in a match?

Before looking at the total number of balls used in a typical tennis match, we need to understand the number of ball changes.

At the start of the match 6 balls are used, and then the balls are changed to a new set after the first 7 games. After this the balls are changed every 9 games.

So ball changes occur after the 7th, 16th, 25th, 34th, 43rd, 52nd games etc…

The reason for a quicker change near the beginning of the match is because the players warm up with a set of balls and use the same set for the first 7 games.

There are a couple of exceptions to these rules though:

  • Ball changes never occur at the start of a tiebreak. In this case the ball change rolls over to the first game of the next set. This situation doesn’t happen often, and it would need the first set to finish 7-6 and the score to reach 6-6 in the second set i.e. 25 games would have been played in total.

How many tennis balls are used in match?

As you can see from understanding about ball changes, it’s not easy to calculate the total number of tennis balls.

This is because the longer the match, the more ball changes there are, so the total number will be greater.

At Grand Slam events, more balls will be used in a men’s match (best of 5 sets) compared to a women’s match (best of 3)

We have to work out the average number of games in a match to work out the number of ball changes and therefore the total number of balls.

Firstly, here’s a great table which shows the average number of games in a set from 1997-2007 from a whole range of tournaments. You can see from the data the number lies between 9.5-10 (nearer 9.75), which would seem to indicate that the average score is either 6-3 or 6-4 in a set (closer to 6-4 really)

Therefore on average (assuming 6-4 is slightly more common than 6-3)

  • Win in 2 sets = Average score is 6-4 6-4 = 20 games
  • Win in 3 sets = Average score is 6-3 6-4 6-4 = 29 games
  • Win in 4 sets = Average score is 6-3 4-6 4-6 4-6 = 39 games
  • Win in 5 sets = Average score is 6-3 6-4 3-6 4-6 4-6 = 48 games

Please note, I’m aware these are rough estimates. Often in 5 sets, one player gets a lot more fatigued than the other and may lose the last set 6-1 or 6-2. However, hopefully these numbers aren’t too far off.

Therefore on average, with some number crunching here and there, here are the number of tennis balls used in an “average” match.

  • 2 set match = 20 games = 3 sets of balls = 18 balls in total
  • 3 set match = 29 games = 4 sets of balls = 24 balls in total
  • 4 set match = 39 games = 5 sets of balls = 30 balls in total
  • 5 set match = 48 games = 6 sets of balls = 36 balls in total

So anywhere from 18-36 balls can be used in a tennis match at a Grand Slam.

Not that accurate I know.

However, if you think that in a women’s match the game lasts 2 or 3 sets, and in a men’s game, it’s 3 or 4 (5 sets is less common) then the average number of sets played in a match (including men’s and women’s) is around 3 or 4 (nearer 3)

Therefore the average number of tennis balls used in a match is likely to be around 25.

Do you agree with this figure? If not, please leave a comment below.

Chart

How many tennis balls are used

…at the Australian Open?

At the Australian Open around 48,000 tennis balls are used throughout the tournament

What tennis balls are used?

In 2018 Dunlop became the official partner of the Australian Open, commencing a 5 year partnership with the tournament. Therefore Dunlop is the official tennis ball used by all the tennis players.

Some players, including Roger Federer, have expressed some displeasure at using Dunlop tennis balls at this Grand Slam, suggesting it’s harder to generate spin when playing at night due to the cooler conditions.

Before this, the main tennis ball used at the Australian Open was made by Wilson.

What happens to the old balls after the Australian Open?

A lot of the used tennis balls are sold at the venue and the money goes to the Australian Open Community Grants program.

…during Wimbledon?

Throughout Wimbledon around 54,000 tennis balls are used from the start to the end of the tournament.

What tennis balls are used?

Slazenger has been the manufacturer of tennis balls at Wimbledon for over 100 years! Tradition forms a big part of the All England Tennis Club and it seems the event organisers like to keep some consistency and continuity with their partners.

The Slazenger ball provides excellent visibility for the players and spectators against the green backdrop of the grass courts.

What happens to the old balls after Wimbledon?

The used balls are sold at the All England Tennis Club and all the money is donated to charities, such as Balls For Schools, which helps support potential tennis stars of the future. In previous years, some money has been given to the Wildlife Trust

Interestingly, up to 50 tennis balls are taken by spectators every day during the tournament.

Sometimes wayward shots end up in the crowd, or for players with a short fuse, out of the court all together!

…at the US Open?

Around 70,000 tennis balls are used each year at the US Open.

What tennis balls are used?

Wilson have been a long-standing partner of the US Open for over 40 years from 1978.

What happens to the old balls after the US Open?

A lot of the used tennis balls are sold on-site to the public. However, the US Open does things a little differently and allows fans to buy specific pieces of tennis memorabilia from the tournament, or a specific match, including tennis balls.

For example, if Roger Federer beats his opponent in the quarter-final, you can purchase one of the balls used in the match.

A nice little earner for the organisers I bet!

…at the French Open?

Approximately 65,000 tennis balls are used at Roland Garros every year.

What tennis balls are used?

The recent history of tennis balls at Roland Garros is little more turbulent compared to the other Slams. Before 2011, Dunlop manufactured the balls. From 2011 to 2019, Babolat was the main supplier and from 2020, Wilson will be the chief supplier of tennis balls.

What happens to the old balls after the French Open?

The French Open is arguably the most envirmontally friendly Slam in the calendar. A lot of the tennis balls are collected as part of Operation Balle Jaune, who recycle the tennis balls to make floors in sports halls throughout France.

Chart

Chart showing how many tennis balls are used at a Grand Slam event

FAQs

How many tennis balls are used in the wall throw test?

This is a common test used to test an athlete’s vision and hand-eye coordination. Only one ball is needed to conduct the test, which consists of catching and throwing a tennis ball between the right and left hands standing 2 metres from a wall over a period of 30 seconds.

Why do they use new balls?

Over time, the pressurized air inside the rubber core of a tennis ball will leak out causing the ball to lose some of its bounce. Also the felt covering will start to wear away the more the ball is used.

Additional Resources

Related Posts

Author: Dad Racket

Graham runs the place around here. He likes making a "little noise" about all things to do with tennis and parenting. Check out his about page to learn more.

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