The new Babolat balls in use at this year's French Open continue to prompt heavy criticism from players. (Jacques Demarthon/AFP/Getty Images)
The new balls in use at this year's French Open have been a point of controversy so far, with such high-profile players as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray bemoaning the French Tennis Federation's decision to change from Dunlop to Babolat (after switching as recently as 2006).
Among the common complaints: They're faster. They're harder. They benefit the heavy hitters.
“I’m hearing a lot of conversations about the balls,” Federer said Monday. “It’s just that they’re not the same from what we’ve just played with for the last month. And that for us is the most frustrating part, that the tournaments all changed to the Roland Garros ball after last year, (but) Roland Garros has changed their balls again.”
On Tuesday, Dunlop threw its hat into the ring by circulating the following release:
GREENVILLE, SC, May 24, 2011 – In response to the major tennis ball issues at Roland Garros, Dunlop would like to point out some inaccuracies in the statements from the FFT and Babolat claiming that the Babolat balls are made in exactly the same way as the Dunlop balls.What are your thoughts on the tournament organizers' choice to switch balls to Babloat? Are the players' complaints legitimate?
The 2011 Roland Garros tennis balls are not made in the same way as our Dunlop balls.
Dunlop have manufactured tennis balls for over 100 years, including the past 40 in the same facility to exacting standards, using core compound formulae and manufacturing processes which are highly confidential and unique to Dunlop. Furthermore, the nature of our composition formulae and bespoke production processes mean that it is impossible for another manufacturer to replicate the finished product.
Dunlop appreciates the impact that minute changes to composition or production can have on the playability of the finished balls and made every possible effort to secure the sponsorship rights to all the major European clay court tournaments to maintain consistency for the players. In 2010, Dunlop managed to achieve this and received no complaints from either tournament organisers or from players.
Dunlop are very proud to have signed long term agreements with the key ATP clay court tournaments in Europe and made every effort to maintain this consistency by offering the FFT the best possible offer to continue the sponsorship of Roland Garros. Disappointingly, the FFT chose to reject Dunlop’s offer to renew the sponsorship of the Roland Garros event for 2011 and opted to go with the French tennis brand Babolat. This means that Roland Garros is the only major clay court tournament not utilising Dunlop balls.
Barry Leach, Managing Director of Dunlop, commented, “Dunlop have a proud history of producing the very best tennis balls in the market and have never received negative feedback from media, fans or most importantly the players, regarding our balls. It is impossible to replicate our balls and we felt it was important to clarify this fact given the statement from the FFT and media interest in the matter. Should the FFT decide they would like to provide the ball consistency that the players desire then we would welcome the opportunity to make it happen”.