At the US Open, complaints about the ball before it hits the first ball

NEW YORK (Associated Press) — Coco Gauff’s dad sometimes adjusts her racket, and the 18-year-old American never even notices.

But there is a difference in tennis balls, as is the case between those used by women and men in US Openis another story.

“Yes, I can definitely say that there is a difference.” hollow He said.

And some of the other best women in the game are pretty annoyed by the inconsistency.

Days before hitting the first ball of the tournament, the US Open balls were a topic of discussion on Friday. It’s the only Grand Slam event where women use a slightly modified version of the ball, and top-ranked Iga Swiatek was among those frustrated that their lighter weight performance didn’t perform as well.

“After a few matches, really, conditions change completely, because they get more and more light. They are losing their fragility sometimes,” said the two-time French Open champion and US Open number one.

According to the US Tennis Association, men and women use the same balls in terms of size, pressure, and design. The tournament media guide notes that the only difference is that men use a felt ball for “extra duty,” while women use a felt ball for “regular duty.”

They’ve been playing in different genres for decades, so it’s not a new topic. It has reappeared this year, in part due to Swiatek’s comments. Even gamers who usually care little wonder if it’s time for a change.

Wimbledon runner-up Ons Jabeur said: “I’m a person who doesn’t really care about these things, because I usually adapt to (my game). I’m the worst person to ask, because usually, if you give me any (ball), I’ll play with it. But it would make sense to play with it. With the same balls the guys do, because that’s what we do in other Grand Slam tournaments. I see their point.”

Swiatek complained about that last week at the Cincinnati hard-court tournament that uses the same type of women’s ball as the US Open. Fourth seed Paula Padusa is another critic, and Swiatek said they stood by their position.

They should have started a case much sooner if they wanted the chance of change this year. The USTA consults with tours and supplier Wilson for recommendations on what type of balls to use in the tournament, but this should be done with enough time to be ready when the players arrive.

“These decisions are made months in advance in order to stock the approximately 100,000 competition balls used at the US Open each year,” the USTA said in a statement.

Women’s regular felt balls have long been put in place to reduce the risk of injury, but today’s players say they can handle a heavier ball. in addition to Wilson’s website He points out that the Extra Mission Ball is ideal for hard courts – the surface on Flushing Meadows – while the Regular Mission is best suited for soft, clay and indoor courts.

“The WTA has long used regular felt balls for hard court play, and we are now beginning to hear from a select number of our athletes that they would like to consider changing the use of the extra ball,” WTA spokeswoman Amy Bender wrote. Email to The Associated Press. “The basis behind using the regular felt ball was that it reduced the possibility of arm, shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries. This is something we will continue to monitor and discuss further with both our athletes and sports science teams.”

Some players say they don’t care much about balls; Even Swiatek noted that they’re the same for all women, so it’s not something that only some athletes need to adapt to.

“Right now, I’m just glad we have (any) a tennis ball,” Leila Fernandez, 2021 US Open runner-up, joked. “I remember years ago, where I couldn’t even get a tennis ball, so I had to play with one of those little colored balls or with a ping-pong ball against a wall.”

But Daniil Medvedev, the men’s champion, noted that tennis matches can sometimes be defined in centimeters, so players are sensitive to everything from equipment to conditions.

“I love Wilson’s US Open balls. At the same time, I’ll be honest – for example, I hate (the balls) at Indian Wells and Miami,” he said. “I am open about this. I would like them to change these balls, but it doesn’t work that way. If they hear me: please change balls for next year.”

If Swiatek and other women have their way, the US Open may be the will.

“I know a lot of players want to change the ball,” said Gauff. “I’m fine with it. Whatever. I mean, whatever the majority want, I’m grateful for it.”


AP tennis writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.


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