Pascal Guyot/AFP through Getty Photographs
You possibly can’t play tennis with out tennis balls.
But an more and more vocal group of gamers says that the tennis balls used on tour are behind a significant drawback: They’re inflicting accidents. High gamers contend the dearth of consistency within the balls is linked to a rash of serious shoulder, elbow and wrist accidents.
Because the season will get into full swing Sunday with the beginning of the Australian Open, gamers are ramping up stress for adjustments.
“Proper now when you go into the locker room, I need to say virtually half the fellows on tour … are coping with some sort of arm subject,” stated Vasek Pospisil, the co-founder of the Skilled Tennis Gamers Affiliation, a gamers advocacy group.
The world’s No. 1 males’s participant, Novak Djokovic, who co-founded the gamers affiliation with Pospisil, additionally says the tennis balls are an issue.
“There may be actually a connection between frequent accidents of the wrist, elbow and shoulder with ball adjustments,” Djokovic advised the sports activities web site Sportal final yr. “I’m completely in favor of selecting one ball with which we’ll play all ATP tournaments.”
After months of public outcry from gamers over the balls, their complaints lastly seem like having an impression.
The ATP and the WTA, the governing our bodies for males’s and ladies’s skilled tennis, respectively, final week introduced a strategic overview of the balls used on the excursions, a transfer taken, they stated, as “a direct results of participant enter.”
In a joint assertion, they stated the aim is to ship larger ball consistency, “whereas not adversely affecting income streams for tournaments.”
In response to the announcement, Pospisil tweeted on X: “Actually hope they’re thorough with this and that is it isn’t simply smoke and mirrors.”
The balls maintain altering
Pospisil, 33, stated when he joined the tour 16 years in the past, elbow accidents had been uncommon, virtually exceptional. He gained the 2014 males’s Wimbledon doubles title with associate Jack Sock, however he has suffered from elbow ligament and tendon tears which have derailed his profession for the previous two years.
The balls used through the grueling tennis season (which lasts about 11 months) usually change from match to match, from week to week, relying on contracts that tournaments have with producers.
With their finely calibrated strokes, gamers are attuned to slight variations in a ball’s weight or stress. And an absence of consistency is not their solely criticism. Chief amongst them is that the balls really feel heavy upon impression.
“I’ve to hit the ball with considerably extra drive for the ball to even do something, to attempt to make an efficient shot,” stated Pospisil. “So immediately you are making use of much more drive. There’s extra stress on impression.”
“Like a grapefruit”
Daniil Medvedev, the lads’s world No. 3, final yr stated the balls utilized in a match in Beijing rapidly expanded and have become fluffy, making aggressive, point-ending pictures far more troublesome. “They turn into like a grapefruit. … We’re principally enjoying 30-shot rallies as a result of it is virtually inconceivable to hit a winner.”
The prolonged rallies enhance fatigue and the stress on a participant’s arm.
Taylor Fritz, the highest American male participant, posted on X about fighting wrist issues attributable to frequent ball adjustments.
Robby Sikka, a doctor with a deal with sports activities medication who has consulted with the Skilled Tennis Gamers Affiliation, stated, “There is not any query that the altering of ball know-how and the dearth of consistency has had an impression on growing damage danger to gamers.”
He thinks excursions ought to transfer rapidly to find out whether or not sure balls could also be unsafe. “We should always pull these from the market identical to the FDA does, or recall. … We won’t have the Wild, Wild West of tennis balls and count on this to be OK.”
To Pospisil, there’s a path to standardizing the balls with out jeopardizing the income generated for tournaments from distinctive offers with producers: a stricter customary ball, designed for particular surfaces — grass, clay or onerous court docket, and for indoors.
All of the producers would make the identical ball, below the identical, extra exacting specs. To make sure exclusivity and visibility, they’d stamp their model identify on the ball.
Manufacturers utilized in match play embrace Dunlop, Wilson, Penn and Slazenger. The businesses that make these balls had been unavailable for remark.