D’Arcy MaineESPN.com2 Minute Read
After multiple players complained about the use of a different ball for women during the 2022 US Open, tournament director Stacey Allaster said the USTA would be using the same ball for both women and men during the 2023 event.
During a news conference Thursday held at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Allaster said the decision was made at the end of the 2022 tournament following feedback from players.
“Every year, the WTA informs us of what Wilson US Open ball they would like their athletes to play with,” Allaster said. “Last year during the tournament, we had some players that wanted to change the ball, and I met with some of those players and said, ‘Look, talk to [WTA chairman and CEO] Steve Simon. Talk to your player council representatives. If the WTA wants to change the ball, no problem, Wilson can accommodate that.’ It’s no extra cost.
“The only condition we gave to the WTA was we need to know what ball you want to play with in 2023 at the end of the 2022 US Open. That’s how far the lead times are for Wilson to produce the volume of our US Open ball.”
Ahead of the 2022 tournament, then- and current No. 1 Iga Swiatek told reporters during the Western & Southern Open that the balls used at the US Open were “horrible” and said she didn’t understand why women couldn’t use the same one as the men. Swiatek, of Poland, said she was unable to purchase the balls in Europe and thus practiced at home with the balls used by the men, making it challenging to properly prepare for the tournament.
Swiatek, who went on to win the title, said she and Paula Badosa, then ranked No. 4 in the world, went to Simon to voice their opinion. Badosa said the balls created “unfavorable conditions” in a post to her Instagram story.
The US Open was the only major to feature different balls in the men’s and women’s matches.
In a statement to ESPN last year, Amy Binder, the WTA’s senior vice president of global communications, said the organization would take the players concerns into account going forward.
“The WTA has always utilized regular felt balls for hardcourt play, and we have now begun to hear from a select number of our athletes that they would like to consider a change to using the extra duty ball,” Binder said. “The basis behind using the regular felt ball was that it limited the potential of arm, shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries. This is something that we will continue to monitor and discuss further with both our athletes and our sports science teams.”
Allaster said the players began using the new balls during last week’s Canadian Open and this week’s Western & Southern Open.
“Right now this is a trial,” Allaster said. “We’ll expect the WTA to tell us at the end of the 2023 US Open if they’d like to continue with the Wilson extra duty [ball] or if they would prefer to go back to the regular felt ball. So [it’s] 100 percent the athletes’ decision.”
The US Open main draw gets underway Aug. 28 in New York.