Why Women Are Against US Open For Playing With Faster Balls Than Men
At US Open Women Play With Faster Balls Than Men. And It’s Hurting Their Consistency.

It’s a minor change but makes up a big difference

In the early 70s, the US Open became one of the first sporting institutions to bridge the gender pay disparity. It was a monumental decision that set up the precedent for the rest of the grand slams to follow. Five decades later, all four grand slams pay equally to men and women, but only three of them – Wimbledon, Australian Open, and French Open – use the same tennis ball for players in both categories.


At the US Open, the last grand slam of the year, women play with lighter and faster balls than men. There’s no difference in terms of size, pressure, and design, but the ball lacks the extra-duty layer that is present in those used by men. It’s a minor change but makes up a big difference.

Bob Bryan, one-half of the legendary Bryan brothers, has the experience of playing with both tennis balls, as he used to feature in both men’s doubles and mixed doubles. Bryan has noted that men can easily whack a 175 miles per hour serve if they use women’s ball. Some believe that the tournament still uses a regular felt ball, not the extra duty ball, to enhance the speed of the game.

But the flip side is that it hampers the consistency of women players. When Iga Swiatek reignited the ball inequality debate earlier this month, she wasn’t the first woman to do so, but her comment has made the most ripples in the tennis world, sparking a series of reactions from both her colleagues and the tournament director.

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Currently ranked number 1 in the world, Swiatek is among the major contenders to win the tournament. But she doesn’t seem very upbeat about the prospect, as the ball used in the tournament doesn’t really suit her aggressive game. Swiatek’s game is modelled around his supreme power and immense athleticism.


She hits harder than anyone, and her forehand is the most already the deadliest proposition for any opponent. Last year in French Open, Swiatek’s recorded a blistering 79 miles per hour serve, and 76 miles per hour backhand, and once generated a mighty impressive 3,453 rpm of topspin.

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But with the lighter ball that is used at the US Open, she can’t make use of her power game, as there’s always a greater risk of unforced error on groundstrokes. “I don’t know why [the tennis balls] are different than men’s ones,” Swiatek said.


Another issue Swiatek raised is that the ball is not available anywhere in Europe. “I feel, it’s really hard to control [the women’s balls], but everybody has same conditions, so we are trying to deal with that. I don’t get why they are different, honestly,” she adds.

The WTA too weighed in on the debate, stating that the regular felt ball is used to limit arm and shoulder injuries among women’s players. “The basis behind using the regular felt ball was that it limited the potential of arm, shoulder, elbow, and wrist injuries,” said Amy Binder, the WTA’s senior vice president.

Swiatek, however, feels that women are now better prepared to deal with such challenges. “I don’t know, like, 15 years ago probably women had some elbow injuries because the balls were heavier and they changed them to women’s balls, but right now we are so physically well prepared that I don’t think it would happen,” added Swiatek.

Paula Badosa, the Spanish tennis player, too echoed the same sentiments, saying “these are really unfavorable conditions for the players.” Badosa also posted a picture of different balls, noting that balls used by women players are specifically meant for clay court or indoor tennis.

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“Then we complain that there are a lot of errors and there’s a loss of tactics and intelligence on points. (While what we deal with is) faster courts and balls impossible to control” added Badosa.


When Ash Barty’s coach Craig Tyzzer raised the same issue last year, many blamed him for exaggerating the issue. Tyzzer said, “The U.S. Open really needs to change … the fact they still use a different ball for guys and girls. It’s a terrible ball for someone like Ash.”

A year later, with a series of complaints over the issue, Tyzzer’s comment now feels prophetic. Despite being an accomplished hard-courter, Barty never reached beyond the fourth round at the US Open.

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The last seven years of the US Open have given five first-time major winners. Last year, the teenager Emma Raducanu shocked the tennis fraternity by beating Leylah Fernandez in the women’s singles final. But her performances since then have left a lot to be desired. The US Open 2022, which begins this week, may throw another surprise at us, so be prepared!


Lead Image: Iga Swiatek

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