The Seymour and Rheta Holt Tennis Center is in full swing with the rest of the Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience, and we’re serving up fun every day we’re open! With all the backhands and balls flying, we can’t help but wonder about the tennis ball...
No, we’re not even going to debate if tennis balls are green or yellow—ask Federer. Today, we’re going beyond the look and focusing on the feel: Why are tennis balls fuzzy?
It’s simple: aerodynamics!
Arrow-dye-WHAT? Ok, ok. Maybe it’s not that simple. Let’s start out with a definition: Aerodynamics is the study of how air interacts with objects. Aerodynamics allows planes to fly and hot air balloons to lift off the ground! Regarding our curiosity, aerodynamics help you serve to your opponent!
Aerodynamics is revolved around a few forces: thrust, weight, lift (or flight), and drag. Our friends at NASA help describe each of these, but we’re going to focus on drag. Drag is the force that tries to slow something down.
Why is it fuzzy?
Hitting a tennis ball without fuzz would make it go so fast, that it could seriously hurt you. Yikes! Originally, tennis balls were stitched with flannel to keep them from going too fast, but eventually, this was replaced with the felt nylon we use today!
The felt nylon, or fuzz, is a drag force on the ball. As air goes through the fuzz, the ball slows down, keeping it from going crazy fast! Additionally, when the tennis ball makes contact with a racket, it lightly grips the racket. All of these factors allow for more-controlled serves and returns from players.
Looking for more Never Stop Asking "Why?" questions? Catch up on all of the past "Whys" on the blog!