Why Tennis Players Keep an Extra Ball in Their Pocket: Explained (2024)

Have you ever wondered why tennis players keep an extra ball in their pocket during a match? If you’re new to the sport, you may have assumed that tennis players simply like to fidget with something during the game. However, there’s actually a practical reason behind this habit.

Tennis players keep an extra ball in their pocket to save time between their first and second serve. According to the rules of tennis, players are allowed to serve two times. If the first serve results in a fault, the player is allowed a second attempt. Rather than having to retrieve the ball after every serve, players keep an extra ball in their pocket to quickly move onto the next serve. This helps to speed up the game and keep the momentum going.

But that’s not the only reason why tennis players keep an extra ball in their pocket.

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Why Tennis Players Keep an Extra Ball: Historical Context

tennis players keep an extra ball

Tennis has a long and rich history, dating back to the 12th century when it was played as a handball game in France. The modern version of tennis was developed in the 19th century in England, and it quickly became a popular sport around the world. As the game evolved, so did the equipment and clothing worn by players.

One of the most important pieces of equipment for tennis players is the ball. In the early days of the sport, players would carry their own balls in a pouch or bag. However, as the game became more competitive and fast-paced, players needed a way to quickly access a new ball if the one in play became damaged or lost. This is where the practice of keeping an extra ball in the pocket comes from.

Initially, tennis players would keep the extra ball in a pouch or bag, but as clothing styles changed, pockets became a more practical option. Today, most tennis players keep an extra ball in the pocket of their shorts or dress. This allows them to quickly retrieve a new ball without having to stop play or rely on a ball person.

In addition to the practical benefits, keeping an extra ball in the pocket has also become a bit of a tradition in the sport. It is now considered a standard part of the tennis player’s attire and adds to the overall aesthetic of the game.

Why Tennis Players Keep an Extra Ball: 6 Practical Reasons

Tennis players keeping an extra ball in their pocket during a match is a common sight. While it may seem like a strange habit, there are practical reasons behind it. Here are some of the most important reasons why tennis players keep an extra ball in their pocket:

1. Easy Access

One of the primary reasons tennis players keep an extra ball in their pocket is for easy access. Having the ball readily available in the pocket means players don’t have to waste time searching for it during a match. This can be especially important during a tight match where every second counts.

2. Saves Time

Another practical reason for keeping an extra ball in the pocket is to save time. Tennis players only have 25 seconds between points, and keeping an extra ball in their pocket means they don’t have to wait for the ball person to bring them a new ball after every point. This can help players maintain their rhythm and avoid getting distracted.

3. Spare Balls

Having a spare ball in the pocket can also come in handy if the ball they are using gets damaged or lost. Tennis balls can become worn out over time, and having a spare ball on hand means players can quickly replace the damaged ball without interrupting the game.

4. Fault Control

Tennis players also keep an extra ball in their pocket to avoid getting penalized for time violations. If a player misses their first serve, they are allowed to take another ball out of their pocket and serve again without having to wait for the ball person. This can help players avoid getting penalized for time violations and keep the game moving.

5. Mobility

Some tennis players prefer to keep the extra ball in their waistband or an undershort pocket instead of their pocket, as it can be more comfortable and less restrictive. This also allows them to move more freely on the court without worrying about the ball falling out of their pocket.

6. Comfort

Lastly, female tennis players may prefer to keep the extra ball in a ball holder attached to their side pocket or undershorts, as it can be more comfortable and less distracting than keeping it in their pocket.

Psychological Factors

Tennis is not just a physical sport; it is also a mental one. Players need to stay focused and in the zone to succeed. Keeping an extra ball in their pocket is a common practice among tennis players, and it can have several psychological benefits.

FocusWhen serving, tennis players need to stay focused and avoid distractions. Bouncing the ball a few times before serving is a common ritual that helps players get into the right mindset. Having an extra ball in their pocket allows players to stay focused on the game instead of worrying about retrieving a ball after a faulty serve.
RoutineTennis players are creatures of habit, and having an extra ball in their pocket is part of their routine. It helps them feel more comfortable and confident on the court. Many players have specific rituals they follow before serving, and having three balls (two in their hand and one in their pocket) is part of that ritual.
SuperstitionSome tennis players believe that having an extra ball in their pocket brings them luck. It is a superstition that has been passed down from generation to generation. Tennis players are known for their quirks and superstitions, and having an extra ball in their pocket is just one of many.
Mental GameTennis is a mental game, and having an extra ball in their pocket can help players stay in control of their mental game. It gives them a sense of security and control, which can be crucial in high-pressure situations. Tennis players are constantly comparing themselves to their opponents and trying to stay one step ahead. Keeping an extra ball in their pocket is just one way they can gain an advantage.
Psychological Factors Why Tennis Players Keep an Extra Ball

Regulations and Etiquette

hand holding a tennis ball

When it comes to tennis, there are specific regulations and etiquette that players must follow. These rules are in place to ensure that the game is played fairly and respectfully.

Tournaments

In professional tennis tournaments like the Grand Slams, players are not allowed to keep an extra ball in their pocket. Instead, ball boys or girls are responsible for providing the players with a new ball after each point. This is to ensure that the game is played consistently and that no player has an unfair advantage by using a smoother or more favorable ball.

Furthermore, players are given a specific amount of time to serve the ball. If they take too long, they can receive a warning or even a penalty. Therefore, keeping an extra ball in their pocket would not be beneficial in a tournament setting.

Casual Play

In casual play, players are allowed to keep an extra ball in their pocket. This is because there are no ball boys or girls to provide them with a new ball after each point. Keeping an extra ball in their pocket allows players to quickly serve a second time in the event of a fault without wasting time retrieving the ball.

However, it is important to note that players should not keep multiple balls in their pocket. This can be seen as a form of gamesmanship and is not considered respectful or fair play.

Receiving Player

When serving, the receiving player can request a new ball if they feel that the ball being used is not suitable. This can be because it is too soft, too hard, or has been in use for too long. The receiving player can also request that the server use a specific ball if they feel that it is the smoothest ball available.

3 Alternatives to Pocketing Balls

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If you’re a tennis player who doesn’t like to keep an extra ball in your pocket, there are a few alternatives you can try. Here are some options:

1. Ball Holder

One option is to use a ball holder. A ball holder is a small plastic container that clips onto your waistband or shorts. You can easily store an extra ball in the holder, and it won’t get in the way of your game. Some ball holders even come with a clip that you can attach to your tennis bag.

2. Hair

Believe it or not, some tennis players use their hair to hold an extra ball. If you have long hair, you can tie it up in a bun or ponytail and slip the ball underneath. This may not be the most secure option, but it can work in a pinch.

3. Shoe

Another alternative is to keep the extra ball in your shoe. This may sound uncomfortable, but it’s actually a common practice among tennis players. You can slip the ball under the laces or tuck it into the tongue of your shoe. Just make sure it’s secure before you start playing.

Commentators and Observers’ Perspectives

From the perspective of commentators and observers, keeping an extra ball in the pocket is a common sight in tennis matches. It is a practice that has been followed by tennis players for a long time. According to experts, this practice serves multiple purposes, including saving time, maintaining rhythm, and ensuring safety.

For beginners, keeping an extra ball in the pocket can be a good idea as it helps them to focus on the game rather than constantly looking for a ball. It also helps them to maintain their rhythm and avoid unnecessary distractions.

From a safety standpoint, keeping an extra ball in the pocket can be helpful as it prevents the ball from rolling onto the court and causing a hazard. It also prevents the ball from getting lost or misplaced, which can be a common occurrence in windy conditions. If you want to protect yourself from the wind while playing tennis, feel free to read our article on tennis court windscreens and how to install them.

Commentators have also noted that players may use the extra ball to their advantage. For example, they may use a fluffier ball for their second serve, which can be easier to control and decrease the possibility of a double fault.

FAQ

What is the purpose of keeping an extra ball in a tennis player’s pocket?

Keeping an extra ball in a tennis player’s pocket is a common practice among professional players. The primary purpose of keeping an extra ball in the pocket is to save time between the first and second serves. If the first serve is a fault, the player can quickly retrieve the spare ball from their pocket and serve again without having to wait for another ball from the ball person. Additionally, players may keep a ball in their pocket during rallies to avoid interruptions caused by a lost ball.

How many balls are in play during a tennis match?

During a tennis match, there are several balls in play. Typically, there are six balls in play at any given time. Three balls are used for each set, and the ball change occurs after every odd game. The ball change rule is in place to ensure that the balls remain in good condition throughout the match.

Why do Wimbledon ball boys not catch the ball?

Wimbledon ball boys and girls are trained not to catch the ball during a match. The tradition of not catching the ball dates back to the early days of tennis when the game was played on grass courts. The grass surface made it difficult to see the ball, and catching it was considered a distraction. Today, the tradition is still followed, and ball boys and girls are instructed to retrieve the ball and roll it back to the server.

Can spectators keep a ball at a tennis match?

Spectators are not allowed to keep a ball at a tennis match. The balls used in professional tennis matches are specially marked and must be returned to the court after they go out of play. Spectators who catch a ball are expected to return it to the ball person or player as soon as possible. Failure to do so can result in ejection from the match.


We’ve uncovered the mystery behind why tennis players keep an extra ball in their pocket. Whether it’s for a lightning-fast second serve, a strategic advantage, or simply a handy backup plan, that extra ball is a pocket-sized game-changer.

So, what’s your take on this pocketed phenomenon? Have you witnessed any amusing ball-in-pocket antics on the court, or perhaps you have your own quirky ball-pocketing rituals to share? We’d love to hear your thoughts, anecdotes, or even your wittiest ball-in-pocket jokes in the comments below!

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Alexander Krause
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