Changes in women’s balls result in athlete complaints and injury alerts. (Photo: reproduction)
A change in the type of competition ball generated controversy at the US Open. Tennis players complain that the ball, which is now the same as the one used in the men’s tournament, is too heavy. Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova has made clear her discomfort with the equipment used at the US Grand Slam.
“They are very heavy and the season is very long. I feel like I’m fighting them,” the tennis player said.
The option for this year’s US Open was to use the ‘extra duty’ ball, which has a more durable felt layer, intended for hard courts. The change came after the athletes themselves were interviewed during the 2022 edition. At the time, they were using a different type of ball, different from the men’s. The current tournament champion, Iga Swiatek, is the one who led the movement for the exchange of balls in the last edition.
The change did not please all players, however. The organization of the event considers this year’s edition as a test. According to the tournament director, the US Open will listen to athletes to define the model for 2024.
“We hope that the WTA will tell us at the end of the 2023 US Open whether they wish to continue with these balls or return to traditional balls. It’s a 100% decision for the athletes. We are happy with what the athletes want when it comes to balls,” said Tournament Director Stacey Allaster.
However, the weight of balls in general has also recently been questioned by male athletes. In September, Canadian tennis player Vasek Pospisil, one of the most involved on the political side of the ATP, posted on his social media that male athletes were also feeling the weight of the ball. The main tournament provider is the same. He points out that there is a will from the entities to slow down the game, even if there is no official speech from the ATP or the WTA.
“A few years ago there was a discussion within the ATP/WTA about wanting to ‘slow the game down’ in order to extend points for the fans. The bullets get heavier and, what a surprise, they kill our body. Almost every athlete I talk to thinks the same way. I have never seen so many wrist, elbow and shoulder injuries as today. »
According to female tennis player representative on the WTA board, Jessica Pegula, the athletes are already in talks to define what type of ball will be used in next year’s competitions. The North American pointed out that in addition to personal choice, ball performance varies by felt type, terrain, size and manufacturer, making the whole discussion even more complex.
“Obviously the health of the athletes is the most important thing. I joke with the board that I don’t like any of the balls, so I walk away from the discussion. But yeah, that’s something we’ll have to assess,” Pegula said.
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