A dizzying track: the ball flies in Melbourne

The happiness of some is the discontent of others. All tennis players, in any case, have been taken by surprise at the devilish speed that the ball is taking this year on the Australian court. Slipped it a few days ago Novak Djokovic, who yesterday, after reducing Frances Tiafoe to 6-3, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (2) and 6-3, reiterated the speech with a change of tone that sounded directly to protest. Number one scowled and shot, “Honestly, it’s like an ice rink. I don’t know what they have done, but the speed grows and grows. It is the fastest track I have ever played here, and it forces you to serve very well because otherwise it is very difficult to win ”.

The Serb’s voice boomed in Melbourne Park, but he was no exception. These days, in addition to having to adapt to the race to the tournament due to the quarantine they had to complete when arriving in the country, tennis players try to adapt to a scenario that demands new codes and that, according to experts, benefits servers and players. gluers. For years, the organization of the major Australian wanted his tournament to become the fastest on the planet, displacing the O2 tapestry in London, where the Masters Cup was played; however, the latest twist in Melbourne means a qualitative leap difficult to control for many players.

“If I could choose, I would stick with the track from other years. This is very fast, one of the fastest I have played in any Grand Slam ”, added another figure, the Austrian Dominic Thiem (6-4, 6-0 and 6-2 to Dominik Koepfer). “In tournaments of this type they should keep the same every year. Two ago, I played for the first time here and they were already fast; however, last year they were perfect, because more tennis could be proposed. But this year is excessive, they are very fast ”, adds the Spanish Pedro Martínez, already present in the third round after beating Emil Ruusuvuori (1-6, 6-3, 6-2 and 7-6 (5).

From 1988 to 2007 – until that first date, the tournament was played on grass – the Australian Open took place on a surface called Rebound Ace; the following year, the Australian Federation opted for a more rhythmic one, the Plexicushion; and from 2020, those responsible hired the firm GreenSet, which designs tracks for events such as those in Basel, Paris-Bercy or the Masters. The objective was to make the matches as dynamic as possible and gain speed in the metrics made by the CPI (Court Pace Index), the system that measures the speed of the ball in points just before it hits the ground and when it is thrown from it. From 44 they are considered fast, but this edition the index may be around 50.

However, the composition of the balls and other factors such as the weather (which is colder or hotter) also intervene in their flying more or less fast. “They can be done with more or less layers [con un acabado de pintura acrílica que va desgastándose]”, Said Rafael Nadal two days ago, a priori one of the injured, and more taking into account his deficit with the service as a result of the low back pain he suffers. “Last year it was not slow, because it was normal, but the ball got exaggeratedly slow. I don’t know if that’s why they have made a less rough track ”, added the Manacor team, summoned this Thursday for the third round (around 11.00, Eurosport) with the American Michail Mmoh (177º).

“If anything, it’s the fastest Australian Open I’ve ever played. It will be harder to do breaks”Nadal continued, following the general feeling of the dressing room. “The tracks are very fast, and it is not very hot and the ball is not so alive,” added Pablo Carreño (6-3, 7-6 (3), 2-6 and 6-4 to Vesely). “I agree, we have to get used to it,” Halep continued.

Demanded by the situation, this Wednesday Djokovic had to apply himself like never before with the serve (84% of loot with the first ones, barbaric figure) and ended up signing his record of aces (26) to get Tiafoe down. Dissatisfied, he spoke. “If you serve well, the track helps you. Best suited to big punches. It is not just my opinion, I have talked about it with many players. You just have to serve well. If you do, you can get a lot of free points, but at the same time, if you play against a great server, it puts enormous pressure ”, resolved the king of the circuit.

Meanwhile, with the maneuver Australia gains vertigo and stands out from the US Open (it scored a CPI of 43 last year) and the rest of the tournaments on hard. Melbourne is today, more than ever, a land of hammers and gunmen.

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