The USTA have decided to use the same tennis ball for the men’s and women’s event at the US Open for the first time and we have been given the inside story on how the ball has been developed by manufacturers Wilson.
The decision by the WTA Tour to change the balls came after comments from some female players last year, with world No 1 Iga Swiatek among those who suggested the lighter Wilson balls were hard to control.
It clearly wasn’t a big issue for the world No 1 as she lifted the US Open trophy in impressive fashion last year, but the decision was made to change the balls for this year.
That has taken tennis legend Martina Navratilova by surprise, as she told Sky Sports that the heavier ball used by the male players may give female players some physical challenges.
“I have played with both of the balls as I played mixed doubles with the men’s ball and the lighter ball for the singles,” said four-time US Open champion Martina Navratilova on Sky Sports.
“Some women have issues with their arm playing with the heavier ball in the mixed doubles so it will be interesting to see how it works out now that everyone is using it in all competitions.
“These balls have been used for decades, so I’m surprised they changed it.”
“I have been talking about this for decades. Maybe you can have a different ball for clay and the other surfaces, but I think we only need two balls in the tennis year.”
The WTA, ATP and USTA constantly work closely with players and partners to determine all aspects of the US Open, including the type of tennis balls that they recommend. Any decision to change or update what has been used in the past is made with the utmost thought and deliberation, after considering the recommendations of the tours and their player councils.
The WTA’s decision to use the Wilson Extra Duty tennis ball was made months in advance of the US Open and is a decision based on careful consideration by all parties.
In past years, the basis behind using the regular felt ball was that it limited the potential of arm, shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries. With the change, the WTA acknowledges that the women’s game, and its athletes, have evolved.
Following the change, the WTA will continue to monitor and discuss further as the 2023 US Open progresses.
Wilson has given Tennis365 the inside story on how they put their US Open ball together, with 12 stages of evolution coming together to make the perfect US Open ball.
What makes up the perfect tennis ball?
Wilson: A high-quality core with limited or no fillers, premium woven felt, and a whole lot of love!
What technology goes into making a Wilson tennis ball?
Wilson: The tennis ball goes through three different compression mould phases – the first to mould the half-shell, the second to mould and pressurize the core, and the third to adhere the felt. Selecting the felt is where a lot of the play characteristics come from. There is an incredible amount of technology that goes into the entire production process, from felt to core. Once we have a concept and have gone through the processes of making a tennis ball- we are continually testing – existing and new concepts – we are always trying to learn and improve.
How does a clay court ball different to the US Open ball?
Wilson: The clay court ball has a very different feel than a hard court ball. The clay court ball has more texture to it and will fluff a little more. This will lead to a ball that plays a bit more dynamic with the court surface compared to a hard court.
Do ex-players or current players have an input into the development of tennis balls?
Wilson: Yes! We work to get a very diversified scope of player feedback – all the way from the recreational level to the pro level.
Should we look at better ways to recycle tennis balls?
Wilson: We should always be looking for new and creative ways to recycle tennis balls. RecycleBalls has done a tremendous job in the States collecting and recycling old balls. We are always looking at new ways for sustainable practices and we want to be at the forefront of this from a tennis brand perspective. Additionally, balls can find a new life in classrooms, nursing homes, and dog parks. But there are still plenty of used tennis balls to go around for new ways to recycle.
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