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View Full Version : Were balls in the 80s and 90s about the same as now?


Keifers
03-12-2009, 03:32 PM
Were tennis balls back then about the same weight and firmness and bounciness, etc., as they are now?

I seem to recall that they were, but I don't completely trust my memory on this. (I was, ahem, just a babe in arms then. :))

Also, when they went from white to yellow, there were no other changes, right?

Thanks.

plasma
03-12-2009, 03:58 PM
guess I'm getting older but I remember those days well. Seems like my balls would stay fresh for hours. Nowadays it seems like my balls wear out much quicker, but maybe that's just a symptom of age. When stroking it feels like my balls are much lower and heavier than they used to be, my balls also seem bigger now, then again maybe it's because I used to hit all day, these days a few strokes and a warm cuddle-nap will suffice....mmmm cuddle-nap
http://i41.tinypic.com/2dr9pg6.jpg

VGP
03-12-2009, 04:03 PM
guess I'm getting older but I remember those days well. Seems like my balls would stay fresh for hours. Nowadays it seems like my balls wear out much quicker, but maybe that's just a symptom of age. When stroking it feels like my balls are much lower and heavier than they used to be, my balls also seem bigger now, then again maybe it's because I used to hit all day, these days a few strokes and a warm cuddle-nap will suffice....mmmm cuddle-nap

Nice double entendre......taken out of context it sounds so fuzzy.

(and you should see a urologist)

Deuce
03-12-2009, 11:00 PM
I think that the cheaper balls today are made to wear out quickly.
The more expensive balls today are about the same quality as the balls of the 80s.

In the 80s, each company basically had one 'model' of ball. And they were all of good quality.
Today, it's ridiculous, with each company having 4 or 5 different 'models' - so that to get good, basic balls, you now have to buy the top of the line model. That's the way they've manipulated the market.

One other difference between the 80s and now is that in the 80s, the numbers on the balls went up to 8... whereas now, they only go to 4.

jmjmkim
03-12-2009, 11:04 PM
Yeah, I was just thinkin the other day, the price of tennis balls are still relatively cheap.

plasma
03-13-2009, 12:37 AM
wilsons have always died fast. Penn's used to last forever but now die overnight. Penns are still sooo much better than wilson for feel and lifespan.... Although they may not feel quite as good; the levitra viagra ball award for painfully long lasting day after day hard hitting performance:
Dunlop Grand Prix Hardcourt..."dedicated"

Rorsach
03-13-2009, 12:55 AM
Yeah, I was just thinkin the other day, the price of tennis balls are still relatively cheap.

Over there perhaps. Tennis balls over here are still expensive, 20 bucks for 4 balls.

plasma
03-16-2009, 07:08 AM
so you mean the hash and sex museum are more affordable than tennis?

origmarm
03-16-2009, 07:39 AM
They've always been the same for me, apart from as Deuce pointed out they've introduced lower tiers of quality to try and appeal to the "once a year when Wimbledon is on" crowd.

I hadn't thought about the numbers before but Deuce is right about that also, the on old slazengers used to have more numbers for sure. Well remembered!

Keifers
03-16-2009, 07:56 AM
I think that the cheaper balls today are made to wear out quickly.
The more expensive balls today are about the same quality as the balls of the 80s.

In the 80s, each company basically had one 'model' of ball. And they were all of good quality.
Today, it's ridiculous, with each company having 4 or 5 different 'models' - so that to get good, basic balls, you now have to buy the top of the line model. That's the way they've manipulated the market.

One other difference between the 80s and now is that in the 80s, the numbers on the balls went up to 8... whereas now, they only go to 4.

They've always been the same for me, apart from as Deuce pointed out they've introduced lower tiers of quality to try and appeal to the "once a year when Wimbledon is on" crowd.

I hadn't thought about the numbers before but Deuce is right about that also, the on old slazengers used to have more numbers for sure. Well remembered!
Indeed well remembered.. :) (I didn't!)

I asked about the balls of yesteryear because of all the hullabaloo about heavier vs. lighter racquets. Without doubt, the way tennis is played has changed and more power to those that play the modern game, but I have to say I like the way heavier racquets can really crush the ball when you hit with flatter, more classic strokes.

Bad Dog
03-16-2009, 08:20 AM
guess I'm getting older but I remember those days well. Seems like my balls would stay fresh for hours. Nowadays it seems like my balls wear out much quicker[/IMG]


Keep in mind that tennis balls may not have gotten worse, but tennis equipment and even average hitting strokes are much harder – causing tennis balls to wear out much faster.

Although I only picked up the game a few summers ago, I understand that “boom-boom” tennis strokes have been around for just a couple of decades on the pro tour. This means that the average recreational player has been thrashing the life out of tennis balls probably for only around a decade and a half. Add ultra-stiff racquets and poly strings, with massive topspin abrasion on court surfaces – and it’s no wonder that tennis balls simply cannot last as long as they used to, only a couple of decades ago.

Bad Dog
03-16-2009, 08:21 AM
Indeed well remembered.. :) (I didn't!)

I asked about the balls of yesteryear because of all the hullabaloo about heavier vs. lighter racquets. Without doubt, the way tennis is played has changed and more power to those that play the modern game, but I have to say I like the way heavier racquets can really crush the ball when you hit with flatter, more classic strokes.

You beat me to it! :)

Keifers
03-16-2009, 02:22 PM
Keep in mind that tennis balls may not have gotten worse, but tennis equipment and even average hitting strokes are much harder – causing tennis balls to wear out much faster.

Although I only picked up the game a few summers ago, I understand that “boom-boom” tennis strokes have been around for just a couple of decades on the pro tour. This means that the average recreational player has been thrashing the life out of tennis balls probably for only around a decade and a half. Add ultra-stiff racquets and poly strings, with massive topspin abrasion on court surfaces – and it’s no wonder that tennis balls simply cannot last as long as they used to, only a couple of decades ago.
Good point, Bad Dog! :)

AndrewD
03-16-2009, 02:52 PM
Tennis balls don't seem to be made quite as well today as they were in the 80's and 90's.

I'm not specifically talking about wear. Players today hit with a lot more spin (for better or worse) and there are a lot of strings which are particularly tough on the balls. What I'm talking about is the amount of times you'll get a bad batch of tennis balls, the number of times you'll get balls that go flat and the number of times you'll get balls breaking. Based on my experiences gained in helping to organise tournaments and umpiring, not merely on being a casual purchaser of tennis balls, the balls we get today aren't as well made as they used to be.

That's not to say that all tennis balls from the 80's and 90's were high quality. Dunlop made some that felt like rocks (was it the 'Fort'?) and the quality of Nassau balls was absolutely appalling.

Can't remember when Slazenger closed their UK plant but that brought a noticable drop in quality. I'd probably go so far as to say that tennis balls made in Asia are of a much lower quality than those that were made in Australia and the UK.

bluetrain4
03-16-2009, 02:57 PM
Every post I read about tennis balls reveals that they are incredibly cheap in the United States compared to many other places.

Yeah, the top of the line ones are more expensive, but there are almost always sales and/or there is a discount for buying in a multi-pack. For match play, I think I use a new can every time.

As a kid, we'd keep our balls for weeks, and balls used "only" 2 or 3 times were considered "good" balls. Of course, we'd also fill our metal (and thereafter plastic) tennis ball can with water from public fountains and drink it.

Times change.

Keifers
03-16-2009, 04:09 PM
Yes, I remember balls lasting for weeks back in the day. And almost no bad balls.

We'd play with them, put them back in the can, and then do it again and again.

To Bad Dog's point, yes, we hit them a lot harder now than in the old days, but it sure seems to me that they've been "engineered" to lose compression much, much faster.

origmarm
03-17-2009, 06:26 AM
Every post I read about tennis balls reveals that they are incredibly cheap in the United States compared to many other places

Very true. I was shocked when I came to the US the first time at how cheap they were. The idea of using a new can for every match was unheard of at the time in Europe, we would use some for 5 matches or so. I remember wondering what these rich Americans did for jobs that they could open a new can each time :).

Then I went to get some myself (it was my turn) and discovered how cheap they were. I actually bought a six pack at the time for what one can would have cost back home. I felt like I'd won the ball lottery or something...

jelle v
03-17-2009, 06:54 AM
I thought rackets were cheap in the US, but the price of tennis balls beats everything.. :-?

I'm looking at the tenniswarehousesite and for 65 dollars you can get 24 cans of Wilson US Open.. you receive 72 tennisballs..

Here in the Netherlands that would cost 120 euros.. which is about 160 dollars.. :confused:

Il Mostro
03-17-2009, 07:26 AM
I thought rackets were cheap in the US, but the price of tennis balls beats everything.. :-?

I'm looking at the tenniswarehousesite and for 65 dollars you can get 24 cans of Wilson US Open.. you receive 72 tennisballs..

Here in the Netherlands that would cost 120 euros.. which is about 160 dollars.. :confused:

The downside to Socialsm. :-)

Bud
03-17-2009, 02:04 PM
I thought rackets were cheap in the US, but the price of tennis balls beats everything.. :-?

I'm looking at the tenniswarehousesite and for 65 dollars you can get 24 cans of Wilson US Open.. you receive 72 tennisballs..

Here in the Netherlands that would cost 120 euros.. which is about 160 dollars.. :confused:

It makes you appreciate them more... and builds character :twisted:

Kirko
03-17-2009, 06:53 PM
Were tennis balls back then about the same weight and firmness and bounciness, etc., as they are now?

I seem to recall that they were, but I don't completely trust my memory on this. (I was, ahem, just a babe in arms then. :))

Also, when they went from white to yellow, there were no other changes, right?

Thanks.

they are better today. the best ball is the Prince reg. felt ball & slazenger balls 2nd. if you stay away from all those walmart balls .

SCRAP IRON
11-08-2013, 01:47 PM
Were tennis balls back then about the same weight and firmness and bounciness, etc., as they are now?

I seem to recall that they were, but I don't completely trust my memory on this. (I was, ahem, just a babe in arms then. :))

Also, when they went from white to yellow, there were no other changes, right?

Thanks.

The balls were better in the 80s. The 90s, however, was a different story!

andreh
11-11-2013, 07:21 AM
I've heard Edberg say many times that the balls are a bit heavier, softer and fluffier today than back in the 80s and 90s. Makes volleying more difficult.

Sarcastic
11-11-2013, 08:14 AM
At least there aren't those "oversize" anymore. They were fun to play "Jungle Tennis" with.

michael_1265
11-11-2013, 10:36 AM
Very true. I was shocked when I came to the US the first time at how cheap they were. The idea of using a new can for every match was unheard of at the time in Europe, we would use some for 5 matches or so. I remember wondering what these rich Americans did for jobs that they could open a new can each time :).

Then I went to get some myself (it was my turn) and discovered how cheap they were. I actually bought a six pack at the time for what one can would have cost back home. I felt like I'd won the ball lottery or something...

The logic is simple: Sell tennis balls in the US cheap enough so that lots of people play tennis. Then, capitalize on the inevitable hip replacement: (http://www.policymic.com/articles/58039/man-saves-65-000-on-hip-replacement-by-getting-it-done-in-belgium)

United States
4 cans of tennis balls a week for 25 years @ $2.25/Can: $11,700
Hip replacement after playing 4 times/week for 25 years: $65,000
Total Cost:$76,000


Belgium:
4 cans of tennis balls a week for 25 years @ $8.00/Can: $41,600
Hip replacement after playing 4 times/week for 25 years: $13,000

Total Cost:$54,000

But it's great to have cheap tennis balls, right????:shock:

coloskier
11-11-2013, 02:26 PM
I've heard Edberg say many times that the balls are a bit heavier, softer and fluffier today than back in the 80s and 90s. Makes volleying more difficult.

It makes volleying more difficult because they are slower and take more spin than the older balls. Also, the bounce height has been increased since the 90's, according to every pro that has played in both eras. The most important thing about bounce height is that is is extremely hard to hit a passing shot with a western grip when the ball only bounces somewhat higher than your ankles on a slice approach shot. Whereas now everything bounces right into the opponents strike zone.

Don't Let It Bounce
11-11-2013, 02:27 PM
^^^ I love this post almost as much as I would love reasonably-priced health care in the U.S.

aliasrichmond
11-11-2013, 02:46 PM
You can still get old school tennis balls made in England - even white ones!
Use them or lose them - only maker left outside China!

http://www.jpricebath.co.uk/

SystemicAnomaly
11-12-2013, 04:39 PM
At least there aren't those "oversize" anymore. They were fun to play "Jungle Tennis" with.

Yeah, lot of us were doing damage to our arm/shoulder trying to get those Type 3 balls to travel faster. They were about 6-8% larger in diameter. They were not heavier as some believe- they only felt heavier/harder on the stringbed. I believe that they became widely available around 2000/2001 in attempt to slow down the men's game, particularly on grass.

They were not popular at all -- not only did they cause arm problems, they did not fit in ball tubes and ball machines, but you could not pick them up with a standard ball hopper either. I do not know if they are still available but they have been suggested for grass play or for high altitude play to compensate for the reduced air drag of the thinner air.

Since the larger ball experiment failed miserably, two other countermeasures were implemented. One is that court surfaces were made to be slower. The other fix was to make ball brighter than they were previously. Premium tennis balls today are significantly brighter than the balls of the 80s. I believe that balls started to become brighter in the late 90s or shortly after the turn of the century (20 --> 21).

Don't Let It Bounce
11-12-2013, 07:21 PM
The balls Sarcastic and Systemic refer to, the ones the industry was pushing so hard about a dozen years ago, are gone and unmourned, but there are still balls that are a little bigger than usual: the ITF specifies Type 3 balls (http://www.itftennis.com/technical/publications/rules/balls/appendix-i.aspx) for high altitude and for courts with an ITF speed rating of 45+.

SystemicAnomaly
11-12-2013, 10:01 PM
^ Actually, the balls that I was referring to above pretty much ARE the Type 3 balls called out by ITF rules. In the late 90s I recall hearing about new larger balls that were going to be 6 to 8% larger in diameter that standard tennis balls. I believe that the experimental (larger) ball that was released in 2000 was, on average, a bit under 7% larger. At first, the type 3 ball was introduced as an experimental ball for 2000 and 2001

"Note 2: From 1st January 2000 until 31st December 2001 two further types of tennis ball may be used on an experimental basis."

http://www.itftennis.com/technical/publications/rules/balls/history.aspx#2000

Chas Tennis
11-13-2013, 05:58 AM
The ITF sets the standards. Some information -
http://www.itftennis.com/technical/technical-centre/faqs/faqs.aspx#A11

"The ball

Certain aspects of the game have hardly changed. The ball, for example, has been made to a relatively tight specification, as laid down in the Rules of Tennis, for many years. However, following a two-year experimental period, from 1 January 2002 the Rules of Tennis (Rule 3) have been amended to permitt two new types of ball – a fast speed ball (Type 1) and a slow speed ball (Type 3). The two new types of ball are designed to have specifications that will result in different performance characteristics derived from their differing dynamic and aerodynamic properties."

SystemicAnomaly
11-13-2013, 06:51 AM
Balls have been made brighter since the late 90s. In 2001, Head and Penn balls started using their Smart Optik felt for increased visibility. I believe that Slazenger had introduced their UltraVis felt prior to this. Wilson and Dunlop (MaxGlo felt) also produced their brighter balls around the turn of the past century.

mikeler
11-13-2013, 07:08 AM
Textured poly strings really tear up a tennis ball.

TimothyO
11-13-2013, 11:37 AM
The downside to Socialsm. :-)

Their tennis balls might be more expensive but there are upsides:

http://newshour-tc.pbs.org/newshour/globalhealth/images/chart_health.gif

Ronaldo
11-13-2013, 03:01 PM
Over there perhaps. Tennis balls over here are still expensive, 20 bucks for 4 balls.

$3-3.50/4 balls here. Courts are sooooooo abrasive, lucky to get two sets before losing the nap.

Don't Let It Bounce
11-13-2013, 04:28 PM
^ Actually, the balls that I was referring to above pretty much ARE the Type 3 balls called out by ITF rules. In the late 90s I recall hearing about new larger balls that were going to be 6 to 8% larger in diameter that standard tennis balls. I believe that the experimental (larger) ball that was released in 2000 was, on average, a bit under 7% larger. At first, the type 3 ball was introduced as an experimental ball for 2000 and 2001

"Note 2: From 1st January 2000 until 31st December 2001 two further types of tennis ball may be used on an experimental basis."

http://www.itftennis.com/technical/publications/rules/balls/history.aspx#2000Wow. I went back and dug up the info, and sure enough, the old Wilson Rally was barely bigger than what is specified still as Type 3. I must have just assumed they backed off the Rally, which sold terribly, and quietly introduced something bigger but much closer to a standard ball, as part of an overall strategy to minimize the differences between surfaces.

So where, if anywhere, is the Type 3 actually being used now? Surely not on grass and carpet pro events – something almost the size of the Wilson Rally would have the ATP and WTA hiring gunmen to go after the ITF, wouldn't it?

SystemicAnomaly
11-14-2013, 01:46 AM
^ I came across a few sources that discussed the Wilson Rally ball. Once source indicated that it was 6% larger (diameter) than a conventional ball while another indicated that it 7% larger. Those numbers are consistent with a Type 3 ball. Curiously, I found some references to the Wilson Rally ball from the mid-1980s. However, I do not recall any mention of such balls until that late 90s. Trpe 3 balls, it seems, were proposed in 1999 and introduced in 2000. Did the Rally ball predate this by a decade and a half? What is your recollection?

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=950&dat=19850816&id=6mxQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=9FkDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5440,177346
http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1985-01-08/business/8501020397_1_new-ball-ball-market-conventional-ball

The following link seems to indicate that the Rally ball was developed in the late 90s:

http://www.amersports.com/media/releases/view/b3fdfa56e995947d1116ff2433ac836f/

coachrick
11-14-2013, 06:07 AM
^ I came across a few sources that discussed the Wilson Rally ball. Once source indicated that it was 6% larger (diameter) than a conventional ball while another indicated that it 7% larger. Those numbers are consistent with a Type 3 ball. Curiously, I found some references to the Wilson Rally ball from the mid-1980s. However, I do not recall any mention of such balls until that late 90s. Trpe 3 balls, it seems, were proposed in 1999 and introduced in 2000. Did the Rally ball predate this by a decade and a half? What is your recollection?

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=950&dat=19850816&id=6mxQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=9FkDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5440,177346
http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1985-01-08/business/8501020397_1_new-ball-ball-market-conventional-ball

The following link seems to indicate that the Rally ball was developed in the late 90s:

http://www.amersports.com/media/releases/view/b3fdfa56e995947d1116ff2433ac836f/

I'm pretty sure I play-tested some of the Rally balls in '85 or so while I was in Greensboro, NC. I personally pronounced them a failure, while my Wilson Teaching Staff friend tried to drink the Kool Aid. At this time, the most popular tennis ball machine was the Prince...and it wanted NOTHING to do with the Rally sized ball! Even just one was enough to stop the machine in its tracks.

Fast forward to the re-introduction of the ball with a serious push(I don't recall the year, likely late '90s)...I thought a fun way to get a reaction to the ball would be to use them on alternating courts in a Round Robin. Most players would have a 25 minute session with conventional balls and the next session with the Rally. OOPS!!! I had people threaten to never come back to the Round Robin(I ran it for 17 years) and one or two threatened bodily harm if I ever made them use the Rally ball again!

Tennis has two stupid, stupid rules(One receiving periodic review)...the 'let' serve should have been abolished decades ago...and the 'toss the ball as many times as you like while serving' rule is just plain dumb!

After virtually no regulation on the size, weight, power of the racket for years and years, introducing a larger ball that would supposedly 'encourage' longer points was a stunning example of "closing the barn door after the horse got out".

Carry on...

coachrick
11-14-2013, 06:27 AM
But, since I derailed the thread with my rant, one big difference in the balls from the '80s vs current, at least in the States, was the fact that the balls were produced in the USA for our market. Penn held on for years after Wilson and Dunlop had gone 'offshore'.

I noticed a significant decline in the durability of the felt in the Wilson ball(particularly the USOpen ball) right around the turn of the century...Penn followed later; and the Dunlop ball shipped halfway 'round the world declined during that period as well.

The hard court Round Robin I ran for 17 years was 'hit and giggle' mixed doubles on 2/3 or so of the 14 courts in play. 3-5 courts would be AA and A players who played a pretty serious game, while the B and C courts saw less intense action(predictably). At one point, I added a 'seventh' ball to each battery of two courts--giving an extra ball in case one went over the fence, but also to distribute the wear across seven balls vs six. Well over half of the balls returned were virtually worn to an unplayable state; so I added another ball, FOUR balls per court for a two-hour round robin. The durability of the felt had gotten so bad that most of the balls returned were barely fit for the teaching hopper! They were quite lively, but with almost no fuzz to help control them!!! The Dunlop balls still held their pressure better/longer compared to Wilson and Penn; but it was all for naught when the fuzz was gone!

Been out of the loop for the past five years; so I don't know what you folks are experiencing nowadays. ;) I still use a couple of plastic tubs that Penn sold through Costco...brings back memories of the 'Made in USA' Penn ball !