Tag Archives: French Open tennis ball

FRENCH OPEN: Rafael Nadal Barely Surviving Tournament’s New Anti-Nadal Ball

Rafael Nadal reacts during match with Ivan Ljubicic Monday at the French Open

How sad it is watching Rafael Nadal flail around, unable to control a tennis ball. He’s pressured by Novak Djokovic and by the history of catching Bjorn Borg’s six French Open titles. But the buzz at Roland Garros in the first week of the tournament was the mysterious new tennis ball. It was no surprise that Nadal, a Babolat spokesperson, said that the new Babolat ball would be good for him.

What is shocking, though, is just how terrible it is making him look, how confused and befuddled. We’ve seen the ball in play for a week now, and while the talk about it has stopped, I think the story of this ball is being told now on the courts. They should give it a new name.

The Anti-Nadal Ball.

Nadal reached the quarterfinals Monday by beating Ivan Ljubicic 7-5, 6-3, 6-3. Since falling behind John Isner two sets to one in the first round, Nadal has won 11 consecutive sets. So his problems are relative, but his confidence is shaky.

“I am not playing well enough to win this tournament the way I played,’’ he said. “That’s the truth.  You have to be realistic. We will see after tomorrow if I am ready to play at this level. I am going to try.’’

Plenty of things were already attacking Nadal’s mind. He didn’t need the ball to play tricks on him. But it played tricks on plenty of the players, who, I’m guessing, are still freaking out and adjusting string tension to adapt. Some players have adapted easily. Roger Federer has had no trouble at all. Nadal can’t even find the spin on the ball.

Nicolas Almagro, ranked No. 12, left early, saying the ball was heavy. Jelena Jankovic said it was light. The truth is, the world’s best tennis players came to a major championship with no idea how the ball would look, feel or bounce. How heavy it would be, how hard, how much spin it would absorb. This isn’t Major League Baseball, where the balls are the same, city to city. The International Tennis Federation approves roughly 300 types of balls for each tournament to choose from.

That is outrageous. There should be one ball per surface, and maybe one heavier one for high altitude. One brand. All year. But tennis is too mixed up with so many governing bodies and so many different money grabs that one of its major championships.

I want to be clear who I’m blaming for this: I’m blaming the French tennis federation and the International Tennis Association.

And I’m blaming the players. Continue reading