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Why do tennis players check the ball before serving and why do they have a second ball in their pockets?


Jul 15, 2023
Why do tennis players check the ball before serving and why do they have a second ball in their pockets?

Wimbledon is almost over with over 600 games on the iconic grass courts taking place at SW19 over the past fortnight.

Only the elite remain, with unseeded Marketa Vondrousova facing Ons Jabeur in the Women’s final a day before defending champion Novak Djokovic battles Carlos Alcaraz.


Wimbledon stars are particularly fussy when it comes to the balls they useCredit: Getty

But throughout the tournament there has been something shared by the hundreds of players who take part and it all has to do with the way in which they serve.

Why do players check the ball before serving?

The reasoning behind checking the ball before a serve comes down to the hair on it.

A new tennis ball has smoothed flat out hair while a used one will be more wild and fluffy and players are looking for one of each.

The smooth ball will be used for a players first serve as the flattered hairs mean it travels faster than an old ball.

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But the cost to the added speed is a lack of grip which is why the percentage of first serves are likely to lack the accuracy of a second.

The fluffier ball will be stored in players pocket in case of a second serve – although they will move slower they are easier to control and thus decease the possibility of a double fault.

Around 54,000 tennis balls are used at Wimbledon


Around 54,000 tennis balls are used at WimbledonCredit: AFP

Why do players have a second ball in their pockets?

So we know what the fluffier ball in tennis star’s pockets are but the question remains why they don’t allow the ballgirls and boys to hold onto them instead.

Put simply, it’s to save time.

At Wimbledon, as is the case with all Grand Slams, players are allowed to take 20 seconds before serving.

If a player has already missed their first serve they want to take the extra time before their second to regain their composure.

The second serve is the one that will need to be more controlled and require more focus which is what the players will be concentrating on rather than examining balls to see which is the fluffiest.

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