Tennis players are notoriously finicky about equipment changes, and the new balls being used at this year's French Open have not gone unnoticed. The balls, made by Babolat to replace the old Dunlops, are "very, very fast" and "really difficult to control," said No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic, predicting they will "favor the servers and the big hitters." Other top seeds agree that the balls are faster and harder, though officials insist that lab tests show the balls have the same lab specs as the old ones.
Ball changes are very rare at the Grand Slam level, with Wimbledon using Slazengers since 1902, notes the Wall Street Journal. A French Tennis Federation spokesman, however, says it's the weather and not the balls that are making the difference. "The players don't remember that last year, when they arrived in Paris, the weather was very damp," he says. "The balls were waterlogged; they didn't bounce back at the same height."