LABS DECLASSIFIED INNOVATION STORIES FROM WILSON LABS: TRINITI

A BETTER BALL
FOR THE PLANET

A BETTER BALL FOR THE PLANET

In many ways, the tennis ball could be considered the unsung hero of the sport. When a match goes poorly, players don’t blame it on the ball. And the ball is never credited with a victory, either. Players’ contentment with tennis ball performance has meant next to no innovation in the tennis ball space for the past 50 years--the only significant changes being the ball changing from white to yellow, and the packaging changing from aluminum to plastic cans.

But Wilson LABS never settles for the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. So the team got to thinking… what if they were able to reduce the environmental impact of tennis ball packaging? What if they were able to make a ball perform without the use of a pressurized can? Plastic and metal packaging has been used for years to hold pressure inside the can, but what if they could make a ball that would negate the need for all that pressure? What if they could get this newly-packaged ball to perform just as well as the US Open ball? And what if they took it a step further and engineered the ball for exceptional durability? The team was excited at the prospect of challenging the stagnant status quo and taking a huge step towards sustainability.

But was it possible? There was one way to find out.

The LABS team knew what they needed to do: create a tennis ball with a bounce that is not only as lively and consistent as a high-performance ball, but that is also somehow able to maintain these characteristics outside of a plastic, pressurized can.

The BCDs of Triniti:
Bounce, Consistency,
AND Durability

The LABS team has a wealth of knowledge and knows what every consumer and pro alike are looking for in a tennis ball: a lively bounce and consistent performance through the course of the match. The mission was to accomplish both of these balanced with the right level of durability in a ball that could live outside of a pressurized can. In order to achieve this, the team knew that optimizing the core was critical.

The team worked with Dow Chemical Company to integrate a low density plastomer into the ball core’s existing rubber compound. This gave the product the desired rebound and playing characteristics, without the usual amount of pressure. The new core features a thicker wall but its lightweight structure keeps the ball playing the same as before. For reference, a standard US Open Extra Duty Ball Core is 3.4 mm, the new Trinti Core is 4.8 mm, approximately a 40 percent increase in wall thickness.

On top of making the ball more lively and consistent, the increased wall thickness moved the ball’s mass closer to the center of the core, decreasing the moment of inertia and allowing players to play with more spin while exerting less energy.

THE DIFFERENCE WAS FELT

In their quest to achieve a consistently high-performing ball, the team decided to test whether changing the felt could improve the ball’s performance in any meaningful way. The result? A new “stretch felt,” nicknamed “STR Felt,” that is 50% more flexible than standard tennis ball felt, which gives the player more feel at contact.

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

The name “Triniti” comes from the ball being sustainable, high-performing, and durable.

By combining the new core material with a more flexible felt, the ball played just as lively as any standard ball on the market, allowing for the first high-performance ball that could live outside of a pressurized sleeve.

Because of these two innovations, Triniti maintains its fresh ball feel 4x longer. The new plastomer core material allows the ball to play more consistently from point to point, game to game and match to match, allowing players to focus more on playing and less on the tennis ball.

The most exciting part – this was no longer just about the ball. Once the LABs team was satisfied with the ball itself, Wilson Product and Design Teams began working on the ball’s all-new sustainable packaging. To create it, Wilson teamed up with the world’s leading supplier of sustainable packaging materials: BillerudKorsnäs. Together they developed a fully recyclable package made from FSC-certified materials --the first of its kind in the high-performance tennis ball industry.

The LABs team was confident the ball’s performance was in a good place, but it was time to put it to the ultimate test. The only way to truly know how the ball performed was to give it to the players.

“When it comes to the best players in the world, they can sense even the smallest differences in ball characteristics and performance.”

– Chloe Lee

ADVANCED MATERIALS ENGINEER
FORMER NCAA DIVISION I TENNIS PLAYER

The vast majority of tour and college level players can differentiate changes in equipment. The LABs team decided to conduct a blind playtest, meaning that they didn’t mention anything about the ball’s characteristics in order to avoid any preconceived perceptions. The LABS team put Triniti through the ringer, conducting extensive testing with ATP, WTA and NCAA tennis players. The verdict? All throughout testing, not a single player mentioned anything about the ball’s pressurization.

Nearly 50 percent of juniors and adults
actually preferred the ball over the
US Open ball

7 out of 10 top Tour players
preferred Triniti over the US Open ball
in on-court playtesting

What began as a mission to create more sustainable ball packaging gave way to the first major innovation in tennis ball technology in half a century. Wilson LABS was able to create a high-performance tennis ball delivered in a fullyrecyclable package. In so doing, Wilson became the first tennis brand to take a major step towards a more sustainable future for the sport.