Misc Tennis

Tennis players claim heavy and slow balls cause more injuries as ATP targets consistency

Tennis players claim heavy and slow balls cause more injuries as ATP targets consistency

Canadian Pospisil – a 2014 Wimbledon men’s doubles champion alongside Jack Sock – has a dispiriting recent injury record and says he has “no doubts” the balls have been a contributing cause over the past two years.

He said a tear in the UCL tendon in his elbow last year had come after deep runs at tournaments “in a couple of weeks where all the players were complaining about how hard and heavy the balls were”.

“It does take a toll,” the 33-year-old told BBC Sport at November’s Davis Cup Finals. “Tennis is a huge business and it would be good to be treated as partners in that business.”

Pospisil, who was a co-founder of the Professional Tennis Players’ Association, added: “I think player health is extremely important and it doesn’t do the sport any favours if you have a lot of the top guys being injured.”

The ATP says injury levels are consistent with previous years and there has not been a “huge spike” in injuries in any particular part of the body.

“The match lengths have extended significantly the last five to 10 years – 20-plus minutes per match on average – and that can be due to a number of factors,” according to the ATP’s chief tour officer Ross Hutchins.

“It’s partly that the balls have created longer rallies, but that’s also because of the strings players use, the way players hit the ball, and the physicality of the way they can retrieve balls is remarkable: it’s all adding to longer matches.

“It means that if we don’t adapt the balls, or how we approach our ball strategy, the rallies are going to keep getting longer, and the matches are going to keep getting longer, which is something that I don’t think is our desire to have as an outcome.

“We haven’t put any sort of direction, desire or mandate about trying to have longer rallies and we have no intention to do so.”

American top-10 player Taylor Fritz ascribed the wrist issues he experienced in the closing months of last season to ball changes, saying he used three different types in three weeks.

Wawrinka was able to go one better, and highlighted the four balls he had to play with in four consecutive weeks, external on tour in Shanghai, Stockholm, Basel and Paris.

Russian 2021 US Open champion Medvedev said he had a “very big pain” in his wrist after his third-round match with Sebastian Korda at last year’s Australian Open. He said hitting one particular ball felt like hitting an apple, the more it aged.

The same Dunlop ball is used consistently throughout January’s Australian swing, and I am told the…

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