Reigning world No. 1 and two-time Major Iga Swiatek called the balls used at the US Open “terrible” during a press conference at the Western & Southern Open this week, questioning why women and men use different balls at the tennis major. It is the only Grand Slam tournament that does not use the same balls for all players.
“I don’t know why they are different from men,” Swiatek said on Wednesday. “I don’t know, 15 years ago women probably had some elbow injuries because the balls were heavier and they turned them into women’s balls, but right now we are so well prepared physically that I don’t think it would happen. Besides, we can have those balls in Europe, or actually, when we buy them in the store, they are completely different from the tournament balls, so when I practice with US Open balls at home [in Poland]I’m practicing with men…
“I feel, it’s really hard to control [the women’s balls], but everyone has the same conditions, so we try to deal with that. I honestly don’t understand why they’re different.”
The balls are also used during lead-in swing, including last week’s Western & Southern Open and Canadian Open. Swiatek, who won 37 games earlier this season, lost in the round of 16 to Madison Keys in Cincinnati on Thursday and fell in the same round in Toronto.
Players have complained about the difference between them, Swiatek said, and she and Paula Badosa, currently number 4, spoke to WTA CEO and chairman Steve Simon last year and asked if they could switch 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 need to push a little more,” Swiatek said. “I stopped pushing and trying to convince the WTA, because the war was happening in Ukraine and I was focusing on something else. Yeah, but honestly, every tournament I play with these balls, I didn’t feel good.”
In a statement to ESPN, Amy Binder, 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 play, and we have now heard from a select few of our athletes that they would like to consider a change in the use of the extra service ball,” said Binder. “The basis behind using the regular felt ball was that it reduced the chances of arm, shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries. This is something we will continue to monitor and discuss with both our athletes and our sports science teams.”
Swiatek is not the first to publicly express her displeasure over the ball difference. Former world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty’s longtime coach Craig Tyzzer told reporters after her Australian Open victory earlier this year that Barty would never win the US Open with the current balls. Barty has since retired from tennis.
“The US Open should really change the ball for the girls. The fact that 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 actually for two years where she uses a gut racket, but I had to turn her into a poly to get some sort of control over the ball. If they keep that ball the same, no one likes Ash that tournament will win.
“So I think you see the result at the US Open, it was two players who, you say, ‘Wow, that was, did two different players win that?’ It’s no surprise if the ball is what it is.”
Five of the previous seven US Open women’s champions, including reigning victor Emma Raducanu, were the first major winners. The 2022 US Open kicks off on August 29 in New York with Swiatek leading the way.