G.A.I. Partners had acquired Hedstrom, the manufacturer of the Vittert ball, and the new corporate leader was a platform tennis enthusiast. The new owners had given Hedstrom the funds to provide the innovative leadership the game has requested to enhance ball performance. They hired new technical talent, implemented new manufacturing methods, and started a statistical process control and continuous improvement program. The main thrust of Vittert’s efforts was on improving the physical aspects, as the balls had been lopsided, were losing their flocking, and worst of all, wearing out very quickly.
Besides the composition of the ball itself, there were other contributing factors. Court surfaces had become more “severe,” as new methods were introduced to keep them rough. Screens, especially the newer and tighter ones, took a toll. Plus players were learning to use more “English” on balls to create a competitive edge. But ball durability was still, plain and simple, a problem. So Vittert was seeking solutions.
Vittert tested over a dozen new formulations, and sought insights from players on all those variations. As the new balls were put into play, the company solicited feedback, from both tournament players and the average Joe and Jane, who were the real backbones of the ball-buying market. One surprise in this research involved the bounce of balls, as one segment of the market leaned toward lower bouncing balls while another wanted higher bouncers. Vittert was making both, and considered adding a third type to round out its coverage of all the market niches.
Source: Platform Tennis News, Summer & Fall 1991