Used as a set piece here, the Babolat balls in question have been a hot topic of conversation at the 2011 French Open. Why?
That's right. Balls, balls, and more balls. And balls balls balls. Seriously. Click on any one of those links and open yourself up to a plethora of ball-related articles. Are the balls fast? Are they soft? Squishy? What do they smell like? Do they talk to you?
So much talk of balls, you'd think that the balls were competing for the titles. I got news for you people. We can stop talking about the balls.
Why? Because anybody still alive in the draw has already won three matches, and they know what they are dealing with. And just for the record, everybody claims the new Babolat balls are different, but they basically designed their balls to the exact specification to last year's balls.
That being said, even if two balls are the exact same weight, they can FEEL like they are different weights based on different characteristics. They can bounce higher or lower, travel faster through the air or slower through the air, get fuzzy when hit or not get fuzzy when hit -- there really are a myriad of complicated multiplicities of thought available once you open a can of...um, balls.
That's some heavy balls to think about, isn't it?
Actually, players don't think they're heavy (well, some do, but most don't), but they all feel that they play differently after a few games. They start out lively, and sort of fade until they are replaced. "The thing is there is a great difference when the balls are new or when they get old," said a guy who knows a thing about tennis balls, Roger Federer. "That will be an issue."
But he also went on to concede, "Honestly I don't think it matters much what kind of balls you give Nadal on clay -- he's gonna be a good player."
Federer went on to add some insight. "Also it depends, how's the weather? Is it rainy? Is it a beautiful day? -- then the balls react differently. I guess the disappointing part here in this whole story...is just that they're not the same from the balls we've been playing with for the last month, and that for us is the most frustrating part."
There has been so much talk about balls, I'm all balled out really. The fact of the matter is that Roland Garros made a deal with a new company to provide balls, and no two balls are alike, so they are playing differently. The best players will figure out how to adjust -- it's what they do -- and we will sit back and be amazed -- it's what we do.
I just wanted to let you know that it can stop now. We're into the round of 16 and the balls can be eliminated from the conversation.
It's time to talk about the players.