Australian Open extend controversial contract for Dunlop balls

The Australian Open have made a bombshell decision on the controversial Dunlop balls that will infuriate star players and fans.

The Herald Sun can exclusively reveal that Dunlop – who signed as Tennis Australia’s official ball partner for five years in 2019 – has renewed his contract.

“Tennis Australia and Dunlop have extended their partnership for another five years,” a TA spokesman told the Herald Sun.

“Dunlop has a long history of making quality tennis balls with consistency, durability and low variance. Dunlop is the most used ball on the international tennis circuit.

“Player satisfaction is vital and we will continue to gather feedback from the gaming community and ensure it is incorporated into the design, manufacturing and testing process.”

The deal comes despite images of players squeezing flat, lifeless balls and returning duds to officials, taking the shine off the first week of this year’s Australian Open.

While some of this year’s extra-long rallies looked aesthetically pleasing on TV, the reality is that the superstars wielding their racquets are frustrated at not being able to score.

They say the ridiculous rallies are a symptom of hitting lifeless balls because they can’t generate enough hiss to smash clean winners.

Twelve games have lasted more than four hours and marathon man Andy Murray – who has played the longest two games – said the balls were to blame.

“I’ve seen (Alexei) Popyrin play over four hours now. (Casper) Ruud played for over three and a half hours. I think we’re going to see more of those longer games this year than maybe last year,” said nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic.

“I mean, (the balls are) different than last year.”

Defending champion Rafael Nadal stated ahead of the tournament that 2023’s balls are of poor quality and a chorus of complaints have backed up the No 1’s claims.

Even players sponsored by Dunlop have criticized how quickly the balls get soft and fluffy.

But TA is clearly confident the balls are up to par and has promised to take player feedback on board when they wrap up this year’s tournament debrief.

The Australian Open switched from Wilson balls to Dunlop in 2019 in what was a rare rally in a Grand Slam.

Wimbledon has used Slazenger balls since 1902 – one of the longest partnerships in world sport – and the US Open has used Wilson balls since 1978. The French Open also uses Wilson balls.

Tournament director Craig Tiley said that Tennis Australia was delighted with Dunlop’s quality when they joined from Wilson in 2019.

“We have been working closely with Dunlop for some time and are impressed with their quality control at every stage, from design through to the manufacturing process,” said Tiley upon signing the contract.

This year’s attacks weren’t the first time Dunlop has publicly smashed his balls.

“I don’t know what the Australian Open did, but it’s terrible. From what I’ve heard, I think they’re pretty cheap,” Australian Bernard Tomic said shortly after the Dunlop deal was signed.

Living legend Roger Federer also questioned the balls in 2019.

But nothing has compared to this year’s pile-on, ignited by Nadal and assisted by Djokovic, Holger Rune, Felix Auger Aliassime and Murray.

In Auger Aliassime’s second-round match, he demonstrated the balls didn’t bounce off the chair umpire – who agreed they weren’t up to speed.

“I bounce the ball to serve, I know (that balls don’t bounce). I’ve never seen that before,” said the Canadian on the pitch.

However, they were jailed in Melbourne Park until at least 2028.

Dunlop claims on its website that its balls are “obsessively crafted and carefully engineered”.

“We only use the purest natural rubber. Then we add our secret recipe and mix to make the final rubber compound,” says the first stage of production.

Originally released as the Australian Open, controversial contract for Dunlop balls is renewed Australian Open extend controversial contract for Dunlop balls

Ryan Sederquist

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