Men and women will use the same tennis ball this year at the U.S. Open, satisfying some women who complained last year they were hitting an inferior product.
Top-ranked Iga Swiatek — who eventually won the tournament — was among the women who felt their lighter ball didn’t hold its strength as long as the one that was used by men. The U.S. Open had been the only one of the four Grand Slam tournaments that used a different ball for men and women.
Stacey Allaster, the U.S. Open’s tournament director, said Thursday that the type of ball being used was entirely up to the players and their tour, and that the U.S. Tennis Association only needed to know their preference after last year’s tournament so enough balls could be ordered from provider Wilson.
“We have been unwavering. That’s been their decision,” Allaster said.
She met last year with some of the players who made clear their preference for the “extra duty” felt ball, rather than the “regular duty” felt ball the women had been using for decades. The extra duty ball is noted by Wilson to be ideal for hard courts, the kind used in Flushing Meadows.
Allaster said she told the players to talk to leadership of the WTA Tour and their players’ council.
“If the WTA wants to change the ball, no problem,” Allaster told them. “Wilson accommodates that, it’s no extra cost, and so the only condition we gave to the WTA was we need to know what ball you want to play with in 2023 at the end of the 2022 U.S. Open. That’s how far the lead times are for Wilson to produce the volume of our U.S. Open ball.”
Players have been using the ball during the hard-court warmup tournaments in Canada and Ohio and will continue on a trial basis at the U.S. Open, which starts Aug. 28. Allaster said the USTA will then await an answer on what balls to order for 2024.
Other changes being implemented include the use of tablets by coaches sitting in their boxes, given them access to real-time stats and video, and players’ challenges to review situations such as a ball they believe bounced twice
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