MELBOURNE, Australia — What’s in the bowl? Well, quite a lot, especially if you’re Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open.
The 2022 champion and other top players argue that this year’s balls are very different from those that graced the courts last year.
Nadal’s main complaint is that the balls don’t spin as much as he’s used to.
And he’s not the only top player who thinks Dunlop balls have changed.
Novak Djokovic, after defeating Spaniard Roberto Carbales Baena in the first round, supported Nadal’s claims.
“I mean, [the balls are] different from last year, Djokovic told the media. “The longer you play, the more rallies you play, the fluffier or bigger the ball gets and it gets slower.”
On Saturday, before the start of the tournament, Nadal complained that the balls did not acquire the Spaniard’s signature level of spin. At the United Cup in Sydney before the start of the Australian Open, Nadal struggled, losing both matches he played to Australian Alex De Minor and Briton Cameron Norrie.
“They say [the balls are] the same, but the ball is no doubt worse in quality,” Nadal said at the time.
“I think it’s a ball that doesn’t have the same spin as usual. After a couple of hits, the ball loses pressure. It’s harder to hit with the right spin. But I think it’s easier to play when you play flat. on frames.
“But I have to live with it. I think I’ve trained enough with the ball to be ready for this.”
Djokovic suspects that fluffier, slower balls lead to longer rallies.
“I have seen that [Alexei] Popyrin has been playing for more than four hours. [Casper] Ruud played over three and a half hours. I think we will see more of these long matches this year than maybe last year,” Djokovic said.
“One of the main reasons will probably be the ball… I don’t think the surface speed has changed much. The outside courts are pretty fast. The stadium courts are a bit slower. But the ball is slower. it affects the play.”
Nadal’s opponent in the first round, Jack Draper, also agreed:[The balls] seems to be something like a start, when they are new, they fly a lot. Then they suddenly become quite fluffy. A couple of them became very soft very quickly. [I] gave them to the judge.
On Tuesday, Andy Murray and Matteo Berrettini played a match lasting four hours and 49 minutes, the third longest match of Murray’s career. On Monday, 2022, Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins played the longest match of her career, playing three hours and three minutes on the court against Anna Kalinska.
Overall, by Wednesday morning, nine of the 55 men’s matches played had lasted more than four hours.