We’ve all noticed the number printed on a tennis ball, but it’s amazing the different answers you get when people try to explain to you what that number means.
Nearly every tennis ball, except maybe practice balls, is printed with the brand (i.e. Wilson, Penn, Dunlop) and then a number below that. The number is generally 1, 2, 3 or 4.
There are many misconceptions about what these numbers on the tennis ball actually mean. The truth is that those numbers don’t really mean anything.
- The number 1 does not mean that you need to be an advanced player to use it.
- The ball with number 4 on it does not bounce the highest
- There are few if any balls with number 5 or higher
So why do tennis balls have any number? Well the answer if really very simple. It’s no special code and every ball is exactly the same (within brand and type).
The number on a tennis ball is meant to help you identify your ball. Kind of like personalizing the ball so it doesn’t look like everyone else’s. All tennis players have experienced their ball bouncing or rolling onto the next court. It gets mixed up with the balls being used by those players, and they all look the same (for the most part). That’s where the number comes in handy. Just a quick shout out across the court “little help please” and “Wilson 1”. They will return your new Wilson 1 rather than their old dirty Penn 3.
Imagine the nightmare playing tennis next to the teaching court using a ball machine. There are practice balls everywhere on that court. Then the unthinkable happens. Your ball rolls onto their court. At that moment you need to focus all your efforts on following the trail of your ball to spot where it lands in the midst of all those practice balls. About then the tennis ball number might not do you much good. That’s where the neon orange or hot pink balls will stand out more, but most people prefer the conventional color, especially the guys.
The next time you go out for tennis practice, or to play a match, you might want to consider checking the balls being used on courts adjacent to you, and then use a different number. That is the one single reason why tennis balls have numbers on them. So now you know.
Have fun on the courts!