French Open organizers have backed the tennis balls used at this year’s clay-court Grand Slam amid complaints by players.
Second-ranked Novak Djokovic said the balls made by Lyon, France-based Babolat for the Paris tournament are harder to handle because they bounce higher and move faster through the air than those supplied last year by Dunlop.
Dunlop balls were used in this year’s main warm-up clay court tournaments in Rome, Madrid and Barcelona. Top-ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain said changing balls makes it hard for players’ bodies to adapt.
“We are convinced that we have the exact same ball as last year,” French Open tournament director Gilbert Ysern told a small group of reporters today. “We clearly asked Babolat to produce the exact same ball as the one we had last year.”
Ysern said the new balls may be playing differently because of dry weather in France.
Nadal said that, while they suit his style of play, he isn’t used to them. He overcame John Isner of the U.S. yesterday in his first five-set match at Roland Garros, the French Open venue.
“I only practiced four or five days, six days with this ball after one month and a half or one month playing with another ball,” Nadal said. “The feeling is something very important in tennis. From the outside it is sometimes difficult to see. But from inside for the players, it is something dangerous for the shoulders, for everything.”
Ysern said he would like to see the same type of ball being used in the warm-up clay court events.
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t depend on us,” Ysern said. “Every tournament decides what balls they want to play with. Unfortunately, we cannot decide that Rome or Madrid, or any other tournament play with the same balls as we do.”
Dunlop said in a press release yesterday that it is “impossible for another manufacturer to replicate the finished product.”
The Paris tournament made the switch to a new ball partly because it had more faith in Babolat promoting its trade mark, Ysern said.
“We were a little bit disappointed by our previous partner in promoting our trademark, Roland Garros, all over the world,” he said. “Babolat told us they had the ability to do that.”