Title: From Tennis to Table Tennis: The Impact of Ball Physics on Different Sports


The world of sports is incredibly diverse, with athletes demonstrating their skills and abilities in a wide range of disciplines. One common element across many sports is the use of a ball, which acts as the primary object of interaction between players and their environment. The physics of a ball can have a significant impact on the way a sport is played, and understanding these effects can be fascinating for both athletes and fans alike. In this article, we will explore the physics of balls in two popular sports – tennis and table tennis – and examine how the unique properties of each ball shape the way these sports are played.

The Physics of a Tennis Ball

Tennis is a popular sport played between two players (singles) or four players (doubles) using a racket and a hollow rubber ball covered with felt. The physics of a tennis ball can be broken down into three main components: mass, size, and elasticity.

1. Mass and Size: A tennis ball typically weighs between 56-59.4 grams (2-2.1 ounces) and has a diameter of approximately 6.7 cm (2.63 inches). The mass and size of the ball play a significant role in how it interacts with the racket and the court surface, as well as how it is affected by air resistance during flight.

2. Elasticity: One of the most important properties of a tennis ball is its elasticity, which determines how much it deforms when it impacts a surface and how quickly it returns to its original shape. Tennis balls are designed to have a high coefficient of restitution (COR), which means that they are highly elastic and bounce well. This is essential in tennis, as players rely on the ball’s bounce to generate power and control during their strokes.

The Physics of a Table Tennis Ball

Table tennis, also known as ping-pong, is a sport played between two or four players using a small, lightweight ball and a flat racket. The physics of a table tennis ball differ significantly from those of a tennis ball, with the following key differences:

1. Mass and Size: A table tennis ball weighs just 2.7 grams (0.095 ounces) and has a diameter of 4 cm (1.57 inches). This makes it much lighter and smaller than a tennis ball, which affects how it interacts with the racket and how it is affected by air resistance.

2. Elasticity: Table tennis balls are made from celluloid or plastic material and are less elastic than tennis balls. This means that they do not deform as much upon impact and have a lower COR, resulting in a lower bounce. The lower elasticity also means that table tennis balls are more susceptible to spin, which is a crucial aspect of the sport.

The Impact of Ball Physics on Gameplay

The unique properties of tennis and table tennis balls have a significant impact on the way these sports are played:

1. Power and Control: In tennis, the high elasticity of the ball allows players to generate significant power and control through their racket strokes. The ball’s mass and size also contribute to the amount of force required to hit the ball effectively, making strength and technique essential components of the sport.

In contrast, table tennis requires players to generate power and control through precise timing and subtle racket movements, as the lightweight ball does not inherently carry a lot of force. The lower elasticity of the table tennis ball also means that spin plays a more significant role in the sport, as players can manipulate the ball’s trajectory and bounce more effectively.

2. Air Resistance and Flight: The mass and size of a tennis ball mean that it is less affected by air resistance during flight, allowing it to maintain its speed and trajectory more consistently. This makes predicting and reacting to the ball’s movement an essential skill in tennis.

In table tennis, the lightweight ball is more susceptible to air resistance, which can cause it to slow down and deviate from its intended path. This adds an additional level of complexity to the sport, as players must account for these factors when positioning themselves and planning their shots.


The physics of balls in tennis and table tennis play a crucial role in shaping the gameplay and strategies of these sports. While the mass, size, and elasticity of the balls differ significantly between the two disciplines, understanding these properties can help athletes and fans alike appreciate the unique challenges and skills required to excel in each sport.