How do they determine bad tennis balls?
September 8, 2009 6:17 PM   Subscribe

What do tennis players look for when they check the balls before serving?

I'm watching the US Open, and players invariably check the balls, and reject some just by looking at it. What are the signs of (of presumably bad balls ) that they're looking for?
posted by dhruva to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 


Oops, that may be (free) registration required if you aren't a Times subscriber. You might have better luck here, click on the first link.
posted by true at 6:27 PM on September 8, 2009


No worries, thanks for the link!
posted by dhruva at 6:28 PM on September 8, 2009


Tsonga joked later that it was simply a matter of obsessive-compulsive behavior, contagious on the professional tours.

Tennis players, not unlike MLB pitchers, have many rituals that could possibly be considered obsessive-compulsive. The checking of the balls. The adjusting of the strings on the racket. The twirling of the racket before a return. Bouncing the ball five times before a serve. Six times. It's a game of rituals and routines, and these physical tics, performed over and over, are calming mechanisms, used to help the mind focus and reset. Notice also how players attempt to game their opponent by trying to interrupt his/her routines. If a player is notorious for going from point to point quickly, a smart player will try to slow him/her down. If a player is know for going slowly, an opponent will try to speed them up. One reason why Roger Federer is so amazingly good and towers above his competition is because he is so mentally tough - he is very nearly completely unflappable.
posted by billysumday at 6:45 PM on September 8, 2009


I hope you don't mind a wee piggyback, dhruva, but is there any sort of penalty for taking too long doing this? The one description in the article of the dude who went to several ball-holders sounded like it was just a stalling technique.

(Players do the same thing in volleyball, but they can't change the ball without getting the referee's and other team captain's approval and it better be a damn good reason. You can get penalized for taking too long when you go back to serve if it's obvious you're trying to stall. Referees also examine the ball before the match and are permitted to swap it then with no arguments.)
posted by sperose at 6:47 PM on September 8, 2009


sperose: This link describes the amount of time a player has between points.
posted by billysumday at 6:52 PM on September 8, 2009


Because stamina is a relevant factor, arbitrary delays are not permitted. In most cases, service is required to occur no more than 20 seconds after the end of the previous point.

I was watching the US Open this weekend and I remember one of the anchors said that the judges were pretty lax about enforcing this rule unless the players take advantage.
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:46 PM on September 8, 2009


Hell yes there's a penalty for taking too long. Novak Djokovic gets warned _all_ the time.
posted by smoke at 8:21 PM on September 8, 2009


I was watching the US Open this weekend and I remember one of the anchors said that the judges were pretty lax about enforcing this rule unless the players take advantage.

Actually, I used to be a line judge at the Australian Open, and I know a lot of professional chair umpires working at the US Open. Every one of them has a stopwatch that they start when the point ends, and if you go over 20 seconds you'll get called on it. However this is rare because 20 seconds is a loooong time. Mary Pierce was well known for taking a long time between serves, doing her hair and stuff, and would get warnings a lot. There are also time limits between games, between sets, for a change of ends, etc, as noted in billysumdays link, and all these are timed by the chair umpire.

I was once at a junior tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia on a brutally hot summer day. A boy cramped up in the final set of his match and had used his injury time earlier. He refused to withdraw and the chair umpire eventually gave him warning, point, game and loss of match for taking too long to serve - he literally couldn't stand up.
posted by jacalata at 11:32 PM on September 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ivan Lendl claimed that he could tell which of the (tightly spec'd) tennis balls was smaller and lighter and would travel faster when he served it. That is what he was doing; he was figuring out which that was. Ivan Lendl was almost the personification of the term obsessive-compulsive.
posted by bukvich at 11:07 AM on September 9, 2009


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