Rafael Nadal - Australian Open 2023

Rafael Nadal unhappy with ‘worse’ Australian Open balls

Rafael Nadal dislikes the new Australian Open 2023 Dunlop balls which he’ll have to play with when trying to defend his title next week. 

The 22-time Grand Slam champion is renowned for his effective use of topspin, however it appears that the new balls will mean that the Spaniard has to adapt his game if he is to find success in Melbourne.

“They say (it) is the same, but the ball is worse quality, without a doubt,” Nadal said, “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.”

Nadal is not the only person to have commented on the balls, with Stan Wawrinka, who beat Nadal in the 2014 Australian Open final, agreeing with the No.2’s assessment.

“The balls are a bit different this year, it is true,” Wawrinka said, “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.”

Australian Open wildcard John Millman spoke of who he believed the balls would benefit most, in a social media post back in December.

“Not the easiest to control initially even in the humid conditions where I am in Brisbane. NK (Nick Kyrgios), (Hubert) Hurkacz, Fritz all very dangerous this AO (Australian Open).”

The unfavourable ball adds to Nadal’s woes, having lost five out of his last six matches, and the defending champion admitted he was vulnerable heading into the hard court major. Despite this, he still seemed positive heading into his first round match.

“By the way, I didn’t play that bad in the first two matches the year. I lost against two great opponents, but having very positive chances to win both matches,” he said, “I feel ready, honestly. The only thing that didn’t happen for me is victories.”

The top seeded player will need to be on top of his game from day one, with the 36-year old being drawn against the talented Brit Jack Draper. Draper has seen a stratospheric rise in the rankings over the past year, climbing from outside the top 250 into the top 40, and has top-10 wins over Stefanos Tsitsipas and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Nadal was full of praise for the 21-year-old before their match on Monday, “He is one of the toughest first-round opponents possible,” said Nadal, “He is young, powerful, growing very fast and playing well.”

Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.