Reigning world number 1 and two-time major champion Every Swiatek called the balls used at the US Open “terrible” during a news conference at the Western & Southern Open this week, and questioned why women and men use different balls at the tennis majors. It is the only Grand Slam tournament not to use the same balls for all players.
“I don’t know why they’re different than men’s,” Swiatek said Wednesday. “I don’t know how, 15 years ago women probably had some elbow injuries because the balls were heavier and they changed them to women’s balls, but now we are so physically well prepared that I don’t think it would happen. Besides we can’t get those balls in Europe, or actually, when we buy them at a store, they are completely different from the tournament balls, so when I practice with US Open balls at home. [in Poland]i work out with men…
“I feel like it’s really hard to control [the women’s balls], but everyone has the same conditions, so we try to address that. I don’t understand why they’re different, honestly.”
The balls are also used during the introductory swing, including the Western & Southern Open and last week’s Canadian Open. Swiatek, who had a 37-game hitting streak earlier this season, lost in the round of 16 to Madison Keys on Thursday in Cincinnati, and fell in the same round in Toronto.
Players complained about the difference between each other, Swiatek said, and she and Paula Badosacurrently ranked number 4, spoke with WTA CEO and president Steve Simon last year and asked if they could change to use the same ball as the men.
“I don’t think it would be a problem because it’s still the same company, it’s Wilson, but, yeah, maybe we should push a little more,” Swiatek said. “I stopped pushing and trying to convince WTA, because the war in Ukraine happened and I refocused on something else. Yes, but honestly, any tournament I play with these balls, I didn’t feel good.”
In a statement to ESPN, Amy Binder, the WTA’s senior vice president of global communications, said the organization is listening to players’ concerns and will investigate the matter further.
“The WTA has always used regular felt balls for hard court, and we have now started to hear from a select number of our athletes that they would like to consider a change to using the extra duty ball,” said Binder. “The rationale behind using the regular felt ball was that it limited the potential for arm, shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries. This is something we will continue to monitor and discuss further with our athletes and our sports science teams.”
Swiatek is not the first to publicly express his displeasure with the ball disparity. Former world no.1 Ashleigh BartyCraig Tyzzer’s longtime coach told reporters after her Australian Open win earlier this year that Barty would never win the US Open with the current balls. Barty later retired from tennis.
“The US Open really needs to change the ball for the girls because they still use a different ball for boys and girls, it’s a terrible ball for someone like Ash,” Tyzzer said in January. “It was the only tournament last year and really for two years where she uses a gut racquet, but I had to switch her to poly just to get some kind of control of the ball. If they keep that ball the same, nobody like Ash is going to win that one a tournament
“So I think you see the result at the US Open, there were two players that, you say, ‘Wow, that was, two different players won that?’ It’s no surprise when the ball is like that.”
Five of the previous seven US Open women’s champions, including a reigning champion Emma Raducanu, were first-time major winners. The 2022 US Open begins on August 29 in New York with Swiatek as the top seed.