Australian Open 2019: Balls bear brunt of players' criticism

Winner of 20 Slams Roger Federer (left) and 17-time Major winner Rafael Nadal fail to see eye to eye on the new Japanese-made Dunlop balls for this year's Australian Open.
Winner of 20 Slams Roger Federer (left) and 17-time Major winner Rafael Nadal fail to see eye to eye on the new Japanese-made Dunlop balls for this year's Australian Open.PHOTOS: EPA-EFE, AAP

Federer, Tomic not greatest fans of new Japanese-made Dunlops introduced this year

MELBOURNE • The Australian Open's new balls this year are dividing opinion 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, says 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 on Wednesday night while his big-mouth countryman Bernard Tomic pulled no punches, saying they were "dead" and "really s**t" before he lost in the first round.

Tournament director Craig Tiley has defended the change from Wilson balls, claiming he had heard only "positive feedback".

He might have to change his mind after defending champion Federer offered a different opinion on Wednesday.

"Well, they definitely play a touch different to the ones we've had the last couple of years," said the Swiss, going 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, the ball doesn't move."

Nadal acknowledged the ball was different but reckons it is "fair for everyone".

NOT ONE FOR A SPIN

Well, they definitely play a touch different to the ones we've had the last couple of years. At night the spin is not taking off tremendously. It's hard to out-spin guys here.

ROGER FEDERER, Australian Open defending champion, on the new balls.

NOT THE SAME, BUT STILL FAIR

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.

RAFAEL NADAL, 17-time Slam winner, finding a difference in the balls, but choosing not to nitpick.

"The ball is big. With colder conditions, especially during the night, the ball is bigger," said the Spaniard, who won his sole 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."

Tomic, meanwhile, was accused of "blackmail and physical threats" by compatriot Lleyton Hewitt in explosive allegations yesterday.

He said Tomic would never again feature in the Davis Cup while he captained Australia. He called Tomic a clown and said he did not want anything to do with him.

The former world No. 1 was responding to claims this week that he had ruined the national system by thinking only for himself and "doesn't put the players first".

He said Tomic had attempted to blackmail him by demanding a wild card and threatening to refuse to play in the Davis Cup, saying their once-close relationship was over.

"The threats I have received for me and my family, that I've had for a year and a half now, I don't think anyone would reach out to a person that speaks like that," he said.

When asked for details, he replied: "They were blackmail threats and physical.

"For me, it was probably the abuse that I copped from him that in the end I drew a line in the sand, and I haven't spoken to him since."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2019, with the headline 'Balls bear brunt of players' criticism'. Print Edition | Subscribe