Loughborough University
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19 June 2006 PR 06/70

New balls, please?

Ground-breaking research into the wear and tear of tennis balls has been served up by Loughborough University.

The research, which is sponsored by sports manufacturing giant Dunlop Slazenger, may have far-reaching consequences for tennis players across the world.

Experts at Loughborough have come up with a new way of measuring tennis ball hairiness – or ‘fuzziness’ – to see if changes in the surface of the ball affect its flight, bounce and impact.

The technique uses digital imaging – and methods similar to those employed in the textile industry – to assess the balls’ surface. This is the first time that digital imagery has been used to monitor the surface deterioration of tennis balls.

In the past, judgements on a tennis ball’s condition were made visually, based on its physical appearance, and were largely guesswork.

Carolyn Steele, who has carried out the research at Loughborough University’s Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, said: “An objective measure of ball condition allows manufacturers and players to take the guesswork out of predicting ball wear, performance, and
feel characteristics.”

The research found that a tennis player’s perception of the ball’s condition was a significant factor affecting play. Players who felt that a ball was too ‘fuzzy’ – and therefore had lowered expectations of it – did not perform as well on court.


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Notes to editors

Loughborough has an established reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement. Assessments of teaching quality by the Quality Assurance Agency place it in the top flight of UK universities; the National Student Survey ranked Loughborough equal first among full-time students; and industry highlights the University in its top five for graduate recruitment. Around 40% of Loughborough’s income is for research, and 60% for teaching. The University has been awarded five Queen's Anniversary Prizes: for its collaboration with aerospace and automotive companies such as BAE Systems, Ford and Rolls Royce; for its work in developing countries; for pioneering research in optical engineering; for its world-leading role in sports research, education and development; and for its outstanding work in evaluating and helping to develop social policy-related programmes.

In 2006 Loughborough celebrates the 40th anniversary of its University Charter, awarded on 19 April 1966 in recognition of the excellence achieved by Loughborough College of Advanced Technology and its predecessor Colleges. Loughborough University of Technology was renamed Loughborough University in 1996.

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