Most of the fans are young. They’re so dedicated to scoring autographs from their favorite players that they (or their parents) drop $50 bucks on one giant tennis ball, which comes with a Sharpie for signing. Some kids bring giant tennis balls they’ve had for years.
The experience of getting signatures is itself a rush. Kids study the schedule for the US Open. They memorize the times their favorite players are competing, locate the court or stadium on the map, and form their game plan for getting signatures.
“Make sure you’re near the front, and you know where the people are coming out so you can get them right when they’re done,” says one young fan in a 2014 Wall Street Journal video on the allure of jumbo tennis balls at the US Open. Most players, another kid says, are kind enough to sign the ball.
When you think about it, that’s pretty amazing. Half the players will be riding the waves of their victory, but the other half will be wishing they’d won.
There’s an unspoken contract between players and fans: you offer me the giant ball, and I will sign it. Sometimes the signatures aren’t very legible, so fans write out the names of the players below the rushed scribbles to remember who signed where.
But no matter how scrawly or hard-to-read, the signatures — and the feeling of standing face-to-face with top players like Serena, Rafa, or Roger — is priceless.
While autographs are perhaps the main reason for the existence of giant tennis balls, with 10,000 estimated to have sold at the US Open in 2018, it’s not their only purpose.
If you coach a high school tennis team, giant tennis balls with autographs from everyone on the team is a fantastic gift for coaches or graduating seniors. The same is true if you coach or play at a tennis club or in a league. If someone is moving away or leaving the league, send them off with a fluorescent reminder of the good times they had on the court with you.
Humans aren’t the only ones who love giant tennis balls. Dogs adore them, too. If you have a dog who loves regular-sized tennis balls, imagine this: you come home from work one day, open a box, and reveal an enormous version of your dog’s favorite toy. The excitement! Dogs can chase, chew, and bat it around the house with their paws.
And don’t count out the youngest members of the family. Because giant tennis balls are relatively light, they’re the perfect toy for playing with your toddler. You can even pull out some old racquets and get your kids started on a jumbo-sized version of your favorite sport.
Before you buy a giant tennis ball, know that it’s not a replica of a regulation-size ball. A regular-sized tennis ball is made from a thick rubber core that’s wrapped in bright felt and then pressurized for the optimal bounce.
And while regular tennis balls measure 2.57-2.70 in, giant tennis balls range from 8-11 inches in diameter.
Their size difference is the main reason the ball construction differs. Imagine the amount of rubber it would take to make a giant tennis ball! Instead, giant tennis balls are made from an inflatable plastic membrane — like a soccer ball — which is then wrapped in bright felt covering.
How to Save When Buying
The jumbo tennis balls Wilson sells at the US Open are famously expensive. And while there’s undoubtedly something special about buying a giant tennis ball there or at any other major tournament, you don’t have to wait until the day you attend to purchase your giant tennis ball for autographs. There are several places you can buy them beforehand — typically for half the price — which we’ll explore in a moment.
Plus, you probably don’t want to buy an expensive giant tennis ball for your dog. Don’t kid yourself that your dog’s giant ball won’t get destroyed. Dogs can tear through tennis balls made with a thick rubber inner layer. It’s way easier to pop or shred a giant one made with a plastic membrane!
Don’t let that stop you from finding a giant tennis ball for your dog, though. We’ll share exactly where to get the perfect giant tennis ball for autographs, for good old-fashioned play, or for your pets to play with (and destroy).
The Best Giant Tennis Balls for Autographs
Yes, fifty dollars is a lot to pay for a ball. Even an awesome, giant tennis ball. But if you’re going to collect autographs from your favorite players, you want the ball to last through years of signing and then enjoy a long life on your bookcase.
Here are our favorite giant tennis balls for autographs. The best part? They all cost dramatically less than what you’ll pay at the US Open or any other major tournament.
Wilson US Open Jumbo Tennis Ball
This giant ball is the same version as those sold at the US Open, but it’s half the price (and you’ll have to pick up a Sharpie of your own).
It comes in two sizes: 5 inches and 9 inches. Both come pre-inflated, saving you the hassle of finding a ball pump. You can get this ball in yellow or pink, and each features the Wilson and US Open logos.
Penn Giant Tennis Ball
At 9 ⅜ inches, it’s a big ball. It comes in yellow or pink, depending on where you buy it. Like the Wilson Jumbo, it’s half the price of giant tennis balls at the US Open. Unlike the Wilson Jumbo, it comes deflated.
Purchase it in yellow on Amazon or in pink from TennisWarehouse.
Dunlop Giant Jumbo Tennis Ball
This one also comes deflated. When inflated, it’s 9.5 inches in size. Like the first two, it’s perfect for autographs and is made with authentic tennis felt. You can buy this ball on Tennis Warehouse.
The Best Giant Tennis Balls for Dogs
The best way to make sure you keep your precious autograph ball out of your dog’s jaws is to buy a second giant tennis ball designed especially for canine enjoyment.
Banfeng Giant Tennis Ball
It’s well-known among dog lovers that typical tennis felt can wear down a dog’s teeth over years of chewing. A tennis ball is to dogs what a slab of steel wool is to pots and pans. That’s why when you’re looking for a giant tennis ball for your dog, you need to make sure it’s made from a material that’s safe for their dental health like this one!
Made from non-abrasive felt, the ball looks just like a tennis ball but is easy on canine teeth. Many chew bones cost a similar amount to this ball, so even if your dog does eventually destroy the ball, you can think of it as a giant yellow chew treat, and you won’t feel so bad. This ball is 9.5 inches and comes deflated.
CNMGBB Giant Tennis Ball
In addition to featuring the same non-abrasive felt as the first ball, this one promises to be more durable. It comes deflated and is 9.5 inches.
The Best Giant Tennis Balls for Kids
These balls feature something kids love: color!
Rhode Island Novelty Giant Tennis Ball
With this tennis ball, you don’t know what color you’re going to get because you can’t choose when you order.
It could be blue, green, red, or yellow. This ball is a super wallet-friendly giant tennis ball. It’s 8 inches in size, comes deflated, and is ideal for kids three and up.
Fun Express Giant Tennis Balls
For the price of one jumbo tennis ball purchased at the US Open, you can buy in bulk and get 12 giant tennis balls for your kids to enjoy! Perfect for a tennis-themed birthday party, these come in assorted colors including blue, purple, yellow, orange, green, and red.
They’re 8 inches in size and come deflated, so remember to order a ball pump kit.
Don’t Forget the Pump
For the majority of these giant tennis balls, you’ll need a ball pump to inflate them. While these can sometimes be hard to track down in stores, they’re inexpensive online. This Franklin Sports Ball Maintenance Kit features a ball pump. Buy it on Amazon.
Have a jumbo-fun time with your giant tennis ball, no matter why you decide to buy one.