Melbourne: The Australian Open’s new balls this year are dividing opinions at Melbourne Park, with even the two greatest men’s Grand Slam winners of all-time failing to see eye-to-eye.
Roger Federer, winner of 20 Slams, has said the new Japanese-made Dunlop balls behave differently in cooler night conditions and do not allow players to ‘out-spin’ rivals.
But Rafael Nadal, the 17-time Major winner renowned for his huge top-spin groundstrokes, countered: “I can’t say it’s a bad ball.”
Australian John Millman reckoned ‘they’re a bit heavy’ after losing Wednesday night while his big-mouth countryman Bernard Tomic pulled no punches, stating they were ‘dead’ and ‘really s…’ before he lost in the first round.
Tournament director Craig Tiley has defended the change from Wilson balls, claiming earlier in the week he had heard only ‘positive feedback’. He might have to change his mind after defending champion Federer offered a different opinion Wednesday.
“Well, they definitely play a touch different to the ones we’ve had the last couple years,” pointed out the Swiss master. “At night the spin is not taking off tremendously,” he added, noting that the semifinals and final are played at night.
“It’s hard to out-spin guys here. I just feel like it’s really important to have fast enough courts for night session conditions. If you keep it slow, slow, at night the ball doesn’t move,” asserted the maestro.
Nadal acknowledged the ball is different but reckons it is ‘fair for everyone’. “The ball is big. With colder conditions, especially during night, the ball is bigger,” said the Spaniard. “Yes, the ball is going a little bit more slow, but it is for everyone.”
But it was Millman who probably summed up the locker room feeling best of all: “Some people love ‘em, some people don’t.”