The questions that keep us up at night: why are tennis balls fuzzy?
We can answer this pesky tennis question through two lenses: historically and functionally.
At the birth of tennis in 16th century England, tennis balls were not made of rubber. Instead, they were crafted from cork and then covered with another fabric such as cloth, wool, or hair. This additional fabric is what gave tennis balls their furry characteristics and the tradition has stuck around until today.
Historically, tennis balls are fuzzy because the initial manufacturing process provided some fuzz. As manufacturing processes have modernized and changed, we’ve kept the fuzz!
But that fuzz is there for a reason. If we neglected tennis ball fuzz and instead used a smooth rubber bouncy ball, the game of tennis would look very different. And likely not for the better.
The presence of fuzz allows players to gain control over the ball. When the strings and tennis ball connect, the fuzz minutely increases the time the racket and ball are connected. This increases the players ability to spin the ball in the direction of his/her choosing.
Next, the fuzz slows down the ball when it touches the court. Without it, a smooth rubber ball would skid off the court staying very low to the surface.
Finally, tennis ball have fuzz because it decreases the speed of the ball. With tennis serves reaching over 160mph, I’d say we don’t need thing moving any quicker!
But physics aside, tennis balls are fuzzy mostly just because they’ve always been that way!