In 2012, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) made only the fifth change to the game’s rulebook in over a century. The rule change mandated that low compression balls be used in authorised 10 and under competitions held by the ITF’s member associations. The ITF were publicly criticised for this decision, with many claiming that the softer ball would impeded skill development.
What does the evidence suggest?
A recent study with the best 10 year old tennis players in Australia showed that the use of lower compression “green” balls , as opposed to the standard “yellow” balls, resulted in:
- Faster rallies
- More shots played at the net
- More shots where the ball was struck at a good height (i.e., between the upper leg and shoulder). It was evident that the standard yellow ball often bounced too high
NOTE: The lower compression “green” balls have 25% less compression than the standard yellow ball.
Ultimately, when the lower compression ball was used, the matches were more resembling of the tactics and speed of play that is seen when watching professional adults play. The next step in this line of research is to assess the influence of ball compression on skill acquisition over an extended period of time.