Warning and balls issues: the first troubles of 2024 tennis season

In the first days of the new tennis year, there are already some topics that are causing discussion

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Warning and balls issues: the first troubles of 2024 tennis season
© Paul Kane / Stringer Getty Images Sport

New season, new and old problems! Not just happy notes, such as the comebacks on the court of Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber and Emma Raducanu. Not even the good level of matches played so far, nor the festive and joyful Oceanic crowd.

There are two issues that still spark discussion among players, media, insiders and fans. During the match with Jason Kubler, specifically between the first and second sets, Rafael Nadal took advantage of a toilet break to change his shirt and shorts which had become unusable due to sweat.

The strong humidity present in Brisbane had a significant impact on the 22-time Slam champion's level of sweating. When he returned to the court, the Spaniard received a warning for a time violation for having exceeded the five minutes allowed by the regulation by a few seconds.

Nadal, rather surprised by the decision taken by chair umpire Arnaud Gabas, asked for explanations in a peaceful and serene manner.

Nadal© Chris Hyde / Stringer Getty Images Sport

An episode that in the end brought a sincere smile to both protagonists of the story.

And the warning is an old companion for Nadal: an issue that he has carried with him since the dawn of his career. When asked about the matter at a press conference, Nadal explained: "I didn't understand very well what happened.

Without criticizing anyone, I took it as a funny situation, but I need to understand the rule because I don't know how things are. I don't know what has changed compared to the past. If I'm not mistaken, we have five minutes from the time we reach the locker room.

After five minutes I was already out of the locker room. The referee told me that he was warned by the person in charge four seconds after calling time. I don't think things happened that way, I could be wrong. My feeling is that I left the locker room the moment they called the five minutes.

Nothing happened, it's just an anecdote. I thought I was on time, so I was surprised." (Below the moment Rafael Nadal received the warning)

Warning and balls issues also in 2024

Nadal also talked about the controversial topic of changing balls. "It was difficult to move the ball correctly towards the end of the first set: it was very heavy.

I don't know what happens to these balls, but they die. The situation changes with new balls," said the Spanish champion. The theme of the balls was revived by Nick Kyrgios, who implied that it is the basis of Novak Djokovic's wrist injury: "The change of balls every week is finally arrived on Novak's wrist.

The ATP really needs to do something about this. Players suffer all the time. Also, people who think balls aren't a big enough factor for an athlete to get hurt are ignorant. The load on a tennis player's elbow and wrist during this season is enormous." The CEO of the PTPA, Ahmad Nassar, also spoke in an interview with Express UK to explain what the ATP's next moves could be, also proposing solutions to the issue. "There will be some board meetings soon where they will discuss different options that you could go down.

Some are heavy, some are light. That destroys your shoulder and elbows. That's something that, if you run a series of fragmented tournaments , you never give any importance.We did some research and it turns out that a high percentage of tennis balls around the world are produced in similar facilities and at the end of the process a logo is placed on them.

Djokovic© Paul Kane / Stringer Getty Images Sport

This means they can continue to sell their sponsorship but we can at least have the same specifications on the playing surface. This would lead to respecting the different brands, so as not to have a negative impact on sponsorship issues in tournaments," he told.

In short, we are only almost at 5 January 2024 and, although the tennis season has just begun, tennis players and associations have already pointed out some of the first problems, the less serious ones and those that have been dragging on for months now.

Djokovic© Will Russell / Stringer Getty Images Sport

Last October, in a long interview given to Sportal, Djokovic shared the alarm raised by his colleagues about balls: "There is certainly a relationship between the frequent injuries to the wrist, elbow and shoulder joints with balls and their modifications.

I'm all for choosing one type of ball to play all tournaments with. With the Slams it is different and more difficult because each of the most important tournaments in which one plays negotiates separately which sponsor to have, but this also happens in ATP-branded competitions.

Everyone has the right to negotiate separately. We simply have to find a way to unite, so that in each category of the circuit we have a ball to play with, obviously depending on the surface. Sometimes this change of ball happens three times in three weeks depending on where we play and affects the health of the players and the joints themselves.

In this sense I support the tennis players who complain and ask the ATP to find a way to solve the problem. I have not seen any statement from the ATP regarding the players' protests and these are things that are incomprehensible to me.

When you have high-level tennis players trying to communicate with you in public, you have to make a statement, go to them and say: OK, we understand, let's sit down and talk about it. I don't understand why there is silence. I hope they realize that there simply has to be direct communication."

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