The ATP and WTA have come under fire once again, even before the US Open has reached its business end. The governing bodies of tennis were already on thin ice, with players complaining about their busy schedules. Now, the Novak Djokovic-led PTPA has mounted further pressure on them, with regard to the weight of balls.
Several players have been sidelined from the US Open due to injuries this year. Kei Nishikori and Paula Badosa withdrew just days before the tournament began. The number of injured players keeps increasing, and some current and retired players think it has to do with ball weight.
Vasek Pospisil, the co-founder of the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) lambasted the ATP and WTA recently. In a series of tweets, Pospisil wrote that the ATP/WTA has tried to slow down the game by using heavier balls. As a direct consequence of it, the number of wrist and shoulder injuries has gone up. “Surprise surprise, it’s killing our bodies,” he wrote.
..feels the same way. I’ve never seen more wrist, elbow, and shoulder injuries in the locker room. If these changes to the ball don’t start getting reversed, it’s only going to get worse. Please start listening @atptour @wtatour. Player injuries are bad for you too. [2/2]
— Vasek Pospisil (@VasekPospisil) September 2, 2023
Several former players were in agreement with Pospisil, including Mardy Fish. The former world number six claimed he now faces long-term problems due to playing with balls that weighed different each week.
The PTPA is in a position to affect real change. The ATP listened to their proposal about having a minimum-wage style system for players. Hopefully, the governing bodies will listen to them this time too.
Heavier balls cause tension among players at the US Open
The WTA introduced heavier balls at the US Open this year. Earlier, women tennis players used lighter balls compared to men. Several players including Iga Swiatek were unhappy with this discrepancy and called for change.
Ons Jabeur was one of the first players to speak up about the issues that arose. She opened up about her shoulders being sore from playing with the much heavier balls in Cincinnati.
Daniil Medvedev believes the different hardcourt balls resulted in an injury. He experienced pain in his wrist but chalked it up to himself. Medvedev realized he was not the only one facing this problem when his colleague discussed it with him.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has also spoken about this issue in the past. “Balls need to stay the same in most tournaments and especially on hard surfaces. This benefits us all and protects players from injury,” he said (via Tennis365).
The US Open, Wimbledon, and French Open use Wilson balls, whereas the Australian Open uses Dunlop balls. Hopefully, the ATP and WTA will heed these concerns and take appropriate action.