About tennis balls
Djokovic goes into a major final amid low pressure ball controversy
Just days after Tom Brady and Bill Belichick took heat on whether or not they deflated game balls to give them an on field advantage, an eerily similar controversy came up in the Australian Open locker rooms in Melbourne.Suspicions were raised after Milos Raonic got a hold of one of the tennis balls that Novak Djokovic was serving with during their quarterfinal matchup. "I grabbed it.and it was soft! Anyone who has ever squeezed a tennis ball before knows that it should be firm, kind of like my hair, ya know." The Canadian number one has not made any further comments.
When Djokovic was asked about the balls in question during his pre-match interview against Stan Wawrinka, he commented that "Once they [the balls] come out of the can, they are pristine and just the perfect pressure. I don't want anyone else to touch the balls, alter the balls, or play with the balls once I start serving with them." There were choruses of the phrase 'What's up with our hero? Is Novak Djokovic a cheater?' coming in on social media from around the world. Djokovic answered curtly when these tweets were brought up by a reporter, "I don't believe so. I mean I feel like I've always played within the rules, I would never do anything to break the rules."
For those of you who might think a low pressure ball is a disadvantage because it moves slower through the air, the USTA has been using "Rally Balls", a low pressure tennis ball, sometimes even made out of foam, to teach children because they are easier to play with and help keep a rally going for longer. If you watch the Men's final, you would notice that Murray and Djokovic had an early average of 7-ball rallies in the first few sets. That's well above the norm.
Boris Becker, Djokovic's coach, who typically has a steely resolve, was asked about the deflated balls in question. His response was almost a lesson in science - something that should seem obvious, but needed to be said to quiet the whole situation down. I want to take this opportunity to share some information. I've spent a significant amount of time these past few days learning as much as I could about tennis balls, ball preparation, ball handling, more than I would like to know. I've been a coach for a year and played for many before that. There have been questions raised, and I believe now, 100%, that Novak Djokovic has followed every rule to the letter. I am not a scientist. Yesterday I performed an experiment with a set of brand new tournament approved tennis balls. Once those balls are exposed to the air, they begin to lose pressure. Without being altered in any way, whatsoever, the balls lose pressure as soon as they are brought out onto court. Building upon that, these players serve at hundreds of kilometers per hour, usually hitting the ball during the point multiple times at similar speeds. I played with these balls for 7 games, the minimum number before balls are changed out, and measured their pressure again. The pressure in the balls was reduced by an average of 72%. Sev-Ent-Ty-Two. And that's me hitting the ball. Those players on the court hit harder, longer, and with more variation that I can these days. This is a perfectly explainable phenomenon and is just a part of the game. That is why balls are changed out every 7-9 games.
The ITF continued to investigate FuzzyYellowBallGate in the hours leading up to the Men's final match between Djokovic and Murray. They found surveillance footage of a shady looking Kangaroo and Koala with a hoodie on examining tennis balls in a dark corner. Both have been interviewed and we are awaiting a translator to make sense of their response.
Meanwhile, the show must go on. Being such a great player, there were plenty of people defending Djokovic, and many who continued to call him a "cheater" leading up to the match. Some say that all the hype affected his game against Stan Wawrinka in the semifinals, but he still managed to pull through in the fifth set.
The Murray v. Djokovic showdown started off very competitively. The first two sets went into tiebreaks, and there were multiple breaks of serve throughout (which, in itself could be considered a bit strange for a men's match of this level).
However, there was a turning point in the third set. Murray was up for a break point and failed to convert at 3-3. He then proceeded to lose the next 9 games straight and the match 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-0.
Many have speculated that Djokovic saw the opportunity and somehow deflated the tennis ball. Further evidence has surfaced in the hours since Djokovic's contested victory such as this image showing Novak clearly moving to make a play on a severely deflated tennis ball.