The United States Tennis Association on Wednesday addressed the use of different tennis balls for male and female players at the US Open, a week after the reigning world No. 1 Iga Swiatek called balls used at last major of the year ‘terrible’ and questions why the inequality was necessary.
“The USTA works closely annually with the WTA and ATP Tour, their player councils and our brand partner to determine what type of balls they recommend playing with for the upcoming US Open,” the organization said in a statement to ESPN. “These decisions are made months in advance to store the nearly 100,000 match balls used at the US Open each year. A number of factors will be considered in making these decisions, and the USTA will continue to follow recommendations from the tours and their player councils to determine which balls will be used during the US Open.”
The US Open is the only Grand Slam tournament that uses different balls for men and women.
Swiatek’s comments came during a press conference at the Western & Southern Open last week.
“I do not know why [the tennis balls] are different than men’s,” she said. “I don’t know, 15 years ago women probably had some elbow injuries because the balls were heavier and they swapped them out for women’s balls, but right now we’re so well prepared physically that I don’t think it would happen. Also we can’t get these balls in Europe or actually if we buy them in store they are totally different than the tournament balls so when I practice at home with US Open balls [in Poland]I practice with men…
“I feel like it’s really hard to control [the women’s balls], but all have the same conditions, so let’s try to deal with it. I don’t understand why they are different, honestly.”
Swiatek said she and Paula Badosathe current world No. 4, had previously complained to WTA CEO and Chairman Steve Simon, asking if the women’s ball could be changed to the men’s.
Badosa backed Swiatek’s comments in an Instagram Story post on Friday.
“Totally agree,” she wrote beneath a screenshot of Swiatek’s remarks. “These are really unfavorable conditions for the players.”
In a statement to ESPN last week, WTA senior vice president of global communications Amy Binder said the organization is listening to players’ concerns and will investigate the matter further.
“The WTA has always used regular felt balls for play on hard courts, and we’ve now begun to hear from a select number of our athletes that they would consider switching to using the extra-duty ball,” said Binder . “The reason for using the regular felt ball was that it limits the risk of arm, shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries. This is something we will continue to monitor and discuss further with both our athletes and our sports science teams .”
Swiatek’s comments were similar to those of Craig Tyzzer, the now-retired former No 1’s longtime coach Ashleigh Barty. After her win at the Australian Open in January, Tyzzer told reporters that Barty could never win the US Open with the current balls.
“The US Open really needs to change the ball for the girls, the fact that they’re still using a different ball for boys and girls is a terrible ball for someone like Ash,” Tyzzer said. “It was the only tournament in the last year and really two years that she’s been using a gut racket, but I had to swap her out for a poly just to have some kind of control of the ball. If they keep the ball, nobody but Ash would win this tournament.”
The US Open draw takes place on Thursday, with the first round starting on Monday. Swiatek is the top seed looking for her first major title on hard.