Australian Open balls: Why are players complaining about them?
If you have been lucky enough to watch a lot of the 2023 Australian Open, you can’t help but have noticed the Dunlop balls have not always gone down well with the players.
The Australian Open switched from Wilson to Dunlop in 2019 and it has always looked like a solid decision, despite Wilson also being an incredibly solid product. The Dunlop ball, however, is a respected one and very popular among club players.
Tennishead did our own review of the Dunlop AO ball just before the tournament and there were plenty of positives to come from it.
So, just what is going on with the 2023 Australian Open Dunlop ball in Melbourne?
Why have the 2023 Australian Open balls been criticised?
Essentially, players are unhappy with their durability. A common sight during the 2023 Australian Open has been players walking up to the chair umpire and handing them balls they believe are no longer fit for purpose.
Considering balls are only supposed to last seven games before brand new ones are brought out, that does suggest a lack of durability.
Many players have been complaining that they go ‘flat’ quickly and ‘fluff-up’ even faster. That is leading to longer rallies and less spin being able to be achieved on shots.
Will the Australian Open balls change?
It’s clear that Tennis Australia are not going to do anything about the balls, so the finals will be more of the same.
To be fair, TA have a long and established relationship with Dunlop and the balls have always been widely regarded as the best quality in tennis.
Perhaps there is a design tweak needed for the specific 2023 ball, but Tennis Australia have a deal with Dunlop until 2028 so the partnership is an established one.
“Tennis Australia and Dunlop have renewed their partnership for a further five years,” a TA spokesperson said. “Dunlop has a long history of producing high-quality tennis balls with consistency, durability and little variance. Dunlop is the most-used ball on the international tennis tour.
“Player satisfaction is vital and we will continue to gather feedback from the playing group and ensure it is factored in to the design, manufacturing and testing process.”
What the players have said about the Australian Open balls
“After a couple of hits, the ball lose the pressure. It’s more difficult to hit with the right spin. But I think it’s easier to play when you play flatter on the shots.
“They say [it] is the same, but the ball is worse quality, without a doubt. I think it’s a ball that doesn’t get the same spin as usual. After a couple of hits, the ball loses the pressure. It’s more difficult to hit with the right spin.”
“I think it is easier to play when you play flatter on the shots. But I need to live with it. I think I have practised enough with the ball to be ready for it.”
“I don’t want to complain about it, but the balls are not bouncing,” Auger-Aliassime said.
“It’s crazy. I mean, we’re hitting normal but I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s the batch of cans [that the balls are in], they’re terrible.”
“Alexei Popyrin is playing over four hours. Casper Ruud played over three-and-a-half hours. I think we are going to see more of those longer duration of matches this year than we have maybe last year.
“One of the biggest reasons will probably be the ball because particularly on the big courts, I don’t think the speed of the surface has changed much. The outside courts are pretty quick. The stadium courts are a bit slower. But the ball is slower. So, that affects the play.”
“The balls are a bit different this year, it is true. I have already tested them (from December) and it is true there is a big difference after you have used them for a few games than when they are new. They lose a lot of pop and … it is completely different.”
“It’s strange because the courts are fast, the courts are not slow.
“But the balls, I mean, when we started, like at the beginning of the match, it felt like there was no pressure in the ball, like flat almost.
“That was what I was complaining about quite a lot during the match, as well. It’s just difficult to hit winners once you’re in the rallies.
“You’ve seen it. I think there was a 70-shot rally yesterday, multiple 35, 45-shot rallies, which is not normal. Yeah, probably need to look at that.”
“They start off flying a lot. Then all of a sudden they get quite fluffy. A couple of them went very soft very quickly. I sort of gave them to the ref.”
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