May 23 (Bloomberg) -- New tennis balls being used at the French Open this year are drawing complaints from Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic and Britain’s Andy Murray, who say the Babolat balls are difficult to play.
Djokovic said the balls supplied by the French company are harder to handle because they bounce higher on the clay courts in Paris and move faster through the air than last year’s Dunlop balls, which were also used in warm-ups this year. Murray says the changes make it hard on players’ wrists and other joints. Babolat says its balls meet standards set by the French tennis federation.
“Babolat developed the balls to meet the precise requirements provided,” Annie Coghill, a spokeswoman for Babolat, said in an e-mail yesterday. “They are the ones who determine the specs of the balls. Babolat is not aware of the 2010 ball specs, only those specs provided to us by the FFT for developing this year’s tournament ball.”
The organizers of the season’s second Grand Slam, which started yesterday, blamed the weather for the players’ concerns, and said all laboratory tests found the balls are similar to ones used in previous years. What’s different is that it has hardly rained in Paris for two months, tournament official Christophe Hayaux du Tilly said in an e-mail.
“The courts are dry and therefore there’s more speed,” he said. “That’s why, even if the balls’ specs are similar to last year, the sensation could be quite different.”
Djokovic told a news conference shortly before the start of the event that the new balls are “very, very fast, so it’s really difficult to control. Maybe it’s going to favor the servers and the big hitters.”
David Ferrer of Spain, who advanced to the second round yesterday by beating Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen, 6-3, 6-3, 6-1, told a news conference that the balls “have been designed, engineered for fast court players with a very good serve.”
Babolat has done “intense testing,” on the balls, “and the final product was approved by the FFT,” Coghill said.
Jelena Jankovic, who beat Ukraine’s Alona Bondarenko 6-3, 6-1 yesterday, said the ball seems lighter, and “flies a little bit more.”
“It tends to take off and really move around. That’s the biggest difference actually,” she said. “You just have to get used to it. It’s different to the other balls which are a little bit heavier and stick to the racquet a little bit more.”
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