Australian Open has moved from using Wilson balls to Dunlop for this year’s edition. The weight of the ball and the spin it generates has divided two men on the tour who are renowned for their mastery with the racquet. Roger Federer, winner of 20 Slams, says the new Japanese-made Dunlop balls behave differently in cooler night conditions and do not allow to “out-spin” rivals. Rafael Nadal, the 17-time major winner known 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 on Wednesday night while his countryman Bernard Tomic pulled no punches, saying they were “dead” and “really shit” before he lost in the first round.
Tournament director Craig Tiley defended the change claiming he had heard only “positive feedback”. However, he might have to change his mind after defending champion Federer offered a different opinion.
“Well, they definitely play a touch different to the ones we’ve had the last couple years,” said the Swiss, who is gunning for a third consecutive title and record seventh at Melbourne Park.
“At night the spin is not taking off tremendously,” he added, noting that the semi-finals 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.”
Nadal, who is bidding to become the first man in the Open era to win each Grand Slam on two or more occasions, acknowledged the ball was different but said the case is “fair for everyone”.
“The ball is big. With colder conditions, especially during the night, the ball is bigger,” said the Spaniard, who won his lone Australian Open title in 2009. “Yes, the ball is going a little bit more slow, no? Not the high bounces that sometimes we used to have here. But the ball is what there is. it is fair enough, a good quality ball. I can’t complain.”
Federer was diplomatic in his criticism. “Look, one year ago it was too far back. Honestly it’s still early in the tournament to exactly tell you how it feels exactly,” said the maestro. “I definitely have to go through a minor adjustment maybe from Perth, which was a faster court. I still feel like you can serve your way out of trouble. It is true, you can’t out-spin a guy here. I think that’s clear.”