New balls please? Players criticize US Open balls
|Place: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: August 29-September 11|
|coverage– Daily radio commentary on BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app, with selected live text commentary and match reports on the website and app|
When world number one Iga Swiatek was asked about the tennis balls used by female players at the US Open, she didn’t hold back.
“I think those balls are horrible,” Swiatek said last week.
“They’re pretty bad. I know there’s a lot of players who complain, and a lot of them are top 10.”
The US Open is the only major where men and women use different balls, and in the build-up to this year’s tournament, several players have echoed Swiatek’s comments.
There has also been a mixed response to the decision to allow in-game coaching at the tournament for the first time.
What difference do balls make?
The women use regular service balls from the Wilson US Open in New York, while the men use extra balls from the Wilson US Open.
Normal service balls are thinner and lighter than extra service balls. Wilson states that regular balls are likely to climb higheri.e. they play faster but are “less durable” than extra duty.
Wilson also says that normal service balls are developed for softer surfaces, such as clay or indoor courts, compared to extra service balls, which are for hard courts and “abrasive” surfaces.
Swiatek explained that lighter balls can contribute to more unforced errors, which in turn can make games less attractive to watch.
“Especially after three matches of really hard play, they’re getting lighter and lighter,” he said at the Cincinnati Open last week.
“In the end, you can’t even serve at 170 km/h [105mph] because you know it will fly like crazy. They are pretty bad.
“Right now we’re playing power, and we can’t get our hands off those balls. We’re making more mistakes, for sure, so I don’t think it’s very nice to watch visually.”
The United States Tennis Association said “a number of factors” are taken into account when deciding which balls to use.
“The USTA works closely with the WTA and ATP Tour, their player councils and our brand partner annually to determine what type of balls they recommend,” a USTA spokesperson said.
“The USTA will continue to follow the tour’s recommendations and its player advice to determine which balls are used during the US Open.”
What have other players said?
Fourth seed Paula Badosa of Spain posted a photo on Instagram from one of his training sessions comparing the two balls.
Daniel Vallverduwho trains the former men’s champion Stan Wawrinkaresponded to the image on Twitter, writing: “The game has evolved. It should be the same extra ball for men and women. She is 100% right in my opinion.”
French Open runner-up Coco Gauff said he could “definitely make a difference” when it comes to using US Open balls.
Meanwhile, American number one Jessica Pegula, who sits on the Women’s Tennis Association player council, said she was “personally not a big fan” of the balls. She told The Guardian: “I think in the first few weeks there are a lot of double faults, because the balls fly a bit more. I don’t see why we couldn’t switch to the extra serve. But that’s the way it is. easier said than done, so hopefully the players’ council can work on that.”
However, players like Petra Kvitova i Madison Keyswho tend to hit hard, flat shots that will pick up more pace with a lighter ball, have said they like the regular serve.
Wimbledon runner-up Ons Jabeurknown for her crafty ball-striking, said she will “play any ball” but added: “It would make sense if we played the same balls as the men, because that’s what we do in other Grand Slams. I see your point .”
WTA spokeswoman Amy Binder told the Associated Press: “The basis for using the regular felt ball was that it limited the potential for injury to the arm, shoulder, elbow and wrist.
“This is something we will continue to monitor and discuss further with our athletes and our sports science teams.”
What about training changes?
Players may receive verbal and non-verbal coaching from the stands during the tournament, as long as it does not disrupt play or hinder any opponents.
Although it is against the rules in most tournaments, coaching from the sidelines is common, with players given warnings or point penalties if caught.
The father of Greece Stefanos Tsitsipas He has often been caught trying to coach his son, most notably at this year’s Australian Open, where a referee was stationed under his box to capture any comments.
“My coach has not been as discreet as other coaches, but it has always been happening,” Tsitsipas said.
“I’ve received a lot of coaching violations, which I thought were unfair. But now that it’s legalized, I’m more than happy to not have to deal with such strict referees who want to ruin the game.”
However, the number 12 in the world Taylor Fritz said he “hated” the new training rule.
“Tennis is an individual sport, so why would anyone else help you?” said the American.
“I think people underestimate how mental and strategic the sport is, so they don’t understand how big of a difference it is.
“I think finding that out for yourself on the court is an important part of our sport. I just feel like we’re missing an important part of tennis.”
Swiatek said he could understand both sides of the argument.
“I understand that players say it’s an individual sport but, on the other hand, there is basically training in most sports,” added the Pole.
“In football the coaches can shout, even though there are 11 big men on the pitch and they should know what to do. They probably know the tactics, but keep talking.”