Virus on Tennis Balls?

The question has come up regularly: can tennis balls carry the Corona virus?  According to most experts, the virus can survive on most surfaces (longer on some and shorter on others).  So, what should we do while continuing to play our game?

A Noble Effort

If you read the thorough comment from doubles partner Dr. Noble Hendrix on the previous post concerning the virus, you learned of his efforts not to touch ANYTHING while playing tennis … the balls included.

He devised a challenging system of using only his racquet to pick up balls and even to use it to TOSS for the serve.  Not sure I am that skilled.

Yes, You Can

A friend from Sailfish Point (Stuart, Florida) shared this recommendation from their director of tennis:

“I would suggest that each player on a four-person court bring their own tennis balls marked for them, similar to what people do with golf balls. The server should only use their own balls. If the ball falls on the other side, players should roll it back to the owner using their racket and should not touch the ball.”

At first, I thought this silly; but upon reflection, not such a crazy idea – especially if you are playing singles or cross court doubles with just two players on the court.  Each player would open a can of balls and leave them on their end (north or south) of the court from which they are serving. And their opponent could easily use their racquet to knock errant balls back to the correct side.

Glove it Up

As a third option, today, I will try playing with a leather glove on my left hand; and use only that hand to touch the ball – or anything else at the tennis court.

P.S. I went to Amazon to see if I could get either real, medical gloves or golf gloves; but they are out ONE MONTH until hopeful delivery.

What do YOU plan on doing on the court?

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19 thoughts on “Virus on Tennis Balls?

  1. As a physician I would say this. DO NOT seek to buy medical gloves…supplies are dwindling and they are needed for medical personnel NOT for tennis players. I love playing tennis as much as the next guy but I think I can give it up for a while in regard to the greater good. Without going into detail the idea of a glove is ridiculous and the racquet only idea is equally so as each racquet will in some way shape or form touch all the balls.

    Just quit playing for a while. Is it really that important? The fact that these suggestions are even out there show a total lack of understanding as to the communicabilty of this virus and the seriousness of the pandemic.

    Doctor, i am totally with you on not taking critical supplies from the professionals; but i am more with Dave in his comment below. Thanks, george

  2. Well, seems a little extreme to me. One can not take every risk out of living life…or we would never go out of the house.

    We will have our group of 8 players on the courts today….we won’t be doing any back slapping or hand shaking…but we will be enjoying the competition and friendship and not worrying about the dam tennis balls.

    Each to their own….but that is not for me.

    Dave, just had this discussion with DeDe… i will be as cautious as possible; but need to play as much as i need to go to Publix to buy food (which i believe will be MORE dangerous than tennis!), thanks, george

  3. I have also been playing outdoors in cold Pittsburgh at a friends private court. (All of the indoor facilities are closed by state mandate) We are all in good health, and we open new balls for each set, but others in our circle of friends have opted out and we understand. We do the elbow bump and try to be careful but like Dave above said, “One can not take every risk out of living life” Stay safe guys!

    Jim, stay safe, healthy and warm! thanks, george

  4. I played with my tennis guys last week…no hugs or hand shakes (just the Wuhan Shake!). I e-mailed them yesterday that I wouldn’t be playing again until this pandemic is over. And, yes, it is the tennis balls, in particular, that concern me. Everyone handles them, and I’m always touching my face inadvertently … aargh. My partner, Leo, has been quarantined by his doctor, as he has a compromised immune system, so I’d don’t want to be the bringer of nasty cooties! … food shopping is the extent of my outings from now on. With the weather so beautiful now, it upsets me not to be playing tennis! So, it’s gardening, being in my studio, reading…….Be smart, be safe, be well!!!

    Caroline, maybe, considering your situation, you should have groceries delivered. george

  5. George, Dr. Reese is spot on. With the volume of tennis you play there is no need to be playing currently. Your response re going to the grocery store is indeed sad given the current climate.

    Mike, you don’t think being with 200 people in Publix is something consider?? george

  6. Consider this. When you are playing on a soft surface you know that when you hit a ball over your head the dust flies off and can get in your eyes. Anyone who has worn contact or who has seen super slow motion of a tennis ball being hit knows this. Therefore if someone you play with has virus on their hand they can leave some on the ball and when you serve that ball the virus can go in your eye or nose or mouth. Small risk? Yes, but a risk that you don’t need to take. Choices have to be made. I’m only hitting with the ball machine.

    Jim, our ball machine is now off limits! george

  7. Sorry George, but I’m with the doctor on this one. If we all make choices which put our individual risks as close to zero as is practically possible, the war will be much shorter with much less downside. If one accepts the risk of being hit by a car every time you leave the house, so be it. The downside is you are hit by the car and die, end of story. If you accept an avoidable risk of getting the virus and get sick, you are probably infecting a bunch of folks in the community before you show systems and extending this nightmare.

    George, valid argument. I would hate to be the one to bring the virus into my own house. thanks, george

  8. I agree 100% with Bradley Reese. We have to hang up our racquets for now and let
    this terrible Covid 19 virus pass through. I have suggested to our community of Lighthouse Bay to be proactive and close all amenities, tennis courts including all clinics, boccie, and the community pools. Shut everything down! 8 States currently have issued stay at home policies and I believe Florida is next. We should not be looking for ways to stay on the tennis courts. We do not want this virus in our communities and we must save lives by social distancing now!

    Ron, I fear that you are correct … shutdown is in our near future. thanks, george

  9. George, You missed the message – going to the store is a necessity, playing tennis is not.

  10. p.s. Don’t do the elbow bump!!!…there are tons of germs there, because people are sneezing into their elbows. Have George send you the “Wuhan Shake” video … I’d sent it to him. Plus, it’s fun to do! (Hey, George, I hope you didn’t delete that!). Be smart & safe & well, guys!

    Caroline, we have been doing the “racquet touch,” which is safer still! thanks, george

  11. Very interesting discussion, George. My view is that life itself is an exercise in risk management. I’ve been playing outdoor hardcourt singles (with appropriate anti-social distancing) with a small group of three guys whom I trust are otherwise isolating themselves. We keep our distance at changeovers and don’t get close enough for even an elbow bump or a racquet touch. I’m very careful not to touch my face and I wash my hands thoroughly afterwards. I would hit balls from my own personal basket, but I would not use a shared ball machine. I would probably view things differently if I were in a different risk group (e.g. over 70 years of age and/or with an underlying lung or heart condition). The reality is that most of us are very likely to get infected at some point (70% is the current consensus estimate, but that may be on the low side— we won’t know until there’s adequate testing of the population at large). The social isolation protocols are wisely intended to slow the spread of the virus down so that the medical system doesn’t get overwhelmed, but they won’t “kill” the virus. Once the protocols are relaxed, the virus will almost certainly still be around and will start making its rounds again (as is now happening in Hong Kong). For some interesting discussions about weighing risks and benefits in this era of uncertainty, I recommend the corona virus episodes on an excellent health care policy podcast called Tradeoffs:
    The March 12 and 16 episodes are of particular interest with regard to social distancing.

    Joe. thanks for the links. george

  12. so how long will virus last on soft fabric of the balls? my hubby says 3 hours & refuses to open new balls but reuses at least twice

    From what i hear on the news, it dies on most soft surfaces in 24 hours. george

  13. Important discussion above…thx to all. we are still playing here at Wyndemere. No elbow bumping and people are keeping their distance. No practice balls and no ball machine, but nets are up and courts pretty full each morning….and it sure means a lot to me to be out there with my tennis friends….but I may give it up. If you are into meditation, I love both Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield. Be well, be safe. Scoot

    Scoot, remember the great George Bernard Shaw quote you liked. george

  14. Brief update: Some local governments here in Northern California have now closed the public tennis courts. The university courts where I usually play are still open. However, after reading everyone’s comments here, and reading the latest “shelter-in-place” ordinance, I’ve decided to shut my own tennis games down for at least a few weeks until things normalize (I hope). My “rational” brain can’t justify tennis as “essential”, despite my “emotional” brain claiming otherwise. Stay safe and be well.

    Joe. Got an email this morning from my club saying all courts will be closed starting at 1 PM. The three hours later, a reversal! A reprieve for a while at least. Still letting my emotional brain rule the day! Thanks. George

  15. My partner’s uncle, a very reputable pulmonologist said he believed 60 to 80% of us will contact this virus! I was stunned. One of the prior comments mentioned 70%. Wow! Taking a few weeks off (maybe more?)from the game we all love hurts for sure, but muscle memory being as dependable as it is, it will be like riding a bike once we get back on the court! Stay safe everyone!

  16. this thread has been enlightening for sure. i was going to go
    inside on clay and just hit. unsure now.

    Joe, where are you now? George

  17. For me in the early Epicenter (King County, WA), it’s no tennis and shelter in place.
    It’s frustrating, but with the latency of infections showing up, we just need to take a break.

    Part of the challenge is – “Well, if they can play tennis…I can do “x”.
    And many will not use appropriate safety precautions. That’s why these State shutdowns are occurring.

    Some links to the UK Tennis association and their views:–advice-for-tennis-players/—latest-advice/

    Kirk, good luck out there and stay healthy. Thanks for the links. george

  18. Hi George..Brad Reese here again… let’s talk about immunity… specifically what is known as “herd” immunity…it refers to a herd of cows…so picture that from the outer circle and getting to the inner circle of that herd most of those cows in those circles are vaccinated…or got sick and survived. Either way they are immune. But the cows in the center never got vaccinated..but they also never got sick because all those cows around them are immune and protecting them because they are in the middle of the herd and therefore not exposed. So Jim Marcus and others are correct in their estimations of 60-80%. Most epidemiologist would say that in order to have effective herd immunity, assuming no vaccine, at you would need for 60-80% of the population exposed to the virus. This is also the problem with Anti- Vaxxers who do not vaccinate their children…they USUALLY will be protected by their vaccinated cohorts but every once in a while you get a very sick wit the measles outbreak last year. Hopefully this will all be over by October (mostly a joke) so I /we can go back to Newk’s for a fun week. Be well to all

    Bradley, we will all be in a world of hurt, if it’s not over by Newk’s time!! thanks for the info. george

  19. A question comes to mind: if the virus can actually be carried by a tennis ball, is it not possible that the impact of hitting the ball might knock virus off the ball causing it to be air-born at least momentarily in the immediate vicinity of the player hitting the ball?
    I, too, am missing the courts…. even more intensely as the weather dictates action!!

    Kent, that is something we won’t find out till this is all over! thanks, george

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