Sports Engineering

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 89–96 | Cite as

Measurements of drag and lift on tennis balls in flight

  • Rod CrossEmail author
  • Crawford Lindsey
Original Article


Measurements are presented of drag and lift on new tennis balls in flight. Two video cameras were used to measure the velocity and height of the balls at two positions separated horizontally by 6.4 m. The balls were fired from a ball launcher at speeds between 15 and 30 m/s and with topspin or backspin at rates up to 2,500 rpm. Significant shot-to-shot variations were found in both the drag and lift coefficients. The average drag coefficient was 0.507 ± 0.024, independent of ball speed or spin, and lower than the value usually observed in wind tunnel experiments. The lift coefficient increased with ball spin, on average, but significant lift was observed even at very low spin. The latter effect can be attributed to a side force arising from asymmetries in the ball surface, analogous to the side force responsible for the erratic path of a knuckleball in baseball.


Wind Tunnel Drag Coefficient Lift Force Lift Coefficient Wind Tunnel Experiment 
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Copyright information

© International Sports Engineering Association 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Physics DepartmentUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Tennis WarehouseSan Luis ObispoUSA

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