TENNIS

Top-ranked Iga Swiatek wonders why the US Open always uses different tennis balls for men and women

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Reigning world number one and two-time major champion Iga Swiatek called the balls used at the US Open “awful” during a press conference at the Western and Southern Open this week, and said wondered why women and men use different balls at the tennis major. . It is the only Grand Slam tournament not to use the same balls for all players.

“I don’t know why they are different from men’s,” Swiatek said Wednesday. “I don’t know, for example, 15 years ago women probably had elbow injuries because the balls were heavier and they changed them to women’s balls, but right now we are so well prepared physically that I don’t think that would happen. Also, we can’t get these balls in Europe, or in fact when we buy them in stores they are totally different from tournament balls, so when I practice with US Open balls at home [in Poland]I train with those of the men…

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“I feel it’s really hard to control [the women’s balls], but everyone has the same conditions, so we try to manage that. Honestly, I don’t understand why they are different.”

The balls are also used in the first swing, including the Western and Southern Open and the Canadian Open last week. Swiatek, who was off to a 37-game winning streak earlier this season, lost in the Round of 16 to Madison Keys on Thursday in Cincinnati and fell in the same round in Toronto.

Players have complained about the difference between them, Swiatek said, and she and Paula Badosa, currently ranked No. 4, spoke to WTA CEO and President Steve Simon last year and asked if they could use the same ball as the men.

“I don’t think that would be a problem because it’s still the same company, it’s Wilson, but, yeah, maybe we should push a bit more,” Swiatek said. “I stopped pushing and trying to convince the WTA, because the war in Ukraine happened and I refocused on something else. Yeah, but honestly, in all the tournaments I play with these balls , I did not feel well.”

In a statement to ESPN, Amy Binder, the WTA’s senior vice president of global communications, said the organization is listening to players’ concerns and will explore the matter further.

“The WTA has always used regular felt balls for hard court play, and we have now started to hear from a number of our athletes that they would like to consider switching to using the extra durable ball,” said Binder said. “The basis behind using the regular felt ball was that it limited the potential for arm, shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries. This is something we will continue to monitor and discuss further with our athletes and sports science teams.”

Swiatek is not the first to publicly express her dissatisfaction with the disparity of the ball. Former world number one Ashleigh Barty’s longtime coach Craig Tyzzer told reporters after winning the Australian Open earlier this year that Barty would never win the US Open with the current balls. . Barty has since retired from tennis.

“The US Open really needs to change the ball for the girls, the fact that they always use a different ball for the guys and the girls, that’s a terrible ball for someone like Ash,” Tyzzer said. in January. “It was the only tournament last year and really in two years where she uses a gut racquet, but I had to change it to poly just to get some kind of ball control. If they keep that ball the same, no one like Ash will win this tournament.

“So I think you see the result at the US Open, it was two players who, you’re like, ‘Wow, that was, two different players won that?’ There are no surprises when the ball is the way it is.”

Five of the seven previous US Open women’s champions, including defending winner Emma Raducanu, have been first-time major winners. The 2022 US Open begins on August 29 in New York with Swiatek as the top seed.

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