Despite negative feedback from some of the biggest names in the sport, Craig Tiley has today defended the Australian Open’s decision to renew their deal with Dunlop Sports.

Despite a chorus of criticism from the game’s top players, Australian Open organisers insist the balls in use at Melbourne Park are exactly the same as last year’s event.

The Herald Sun exclusively revealed on Monday that Dunlop Sports has had its contract renewed for a further five years.

Men’s tournament favourite Novak Djokovic has been among players who have questioned the balls in use this year, declaring them “different from last year”.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal also questioned their quality in the lead-up to the event as a number of players have highlighted what they say are flat and fluffy balls.

But tournament boss Craig Tiley has defended the manufacturer, and is claiming the balls are “the same specification”.

“Every single year, together with Dunlop and the court manufacturers, there’s a very rigorous technical and scientific process that is gone through to test the ball,” he said on Monday morning.

“The ball this year is exactly the same specification as the ball last year. You can’t change the ball mid (tournament), but following the event we’ll debrief again with our partners and see.

“One thing that has been different this year has been the conditions. We’ve had more extreme heat, more rain, more extrmees in weather. That has changed the conditions.

“But this ball has been used right throughout the summer – we started using these in December and all the way through.”

He conceded that some players have clearly had an issue.

“You get some players that don’t like the ball, but all that feedback is taken into consideration and we’ll work with the players to make sure it works for them,” Tiley said on SEN.

“We look at everything and see why in some cases some of the players feel like it’s different.”


Sam Landsberger

The Australian Open has renewed its partnership with under-fire ball manufacturer Dunlop Sports for five more years despite a chorus of criticism from the world’s best tennis players.

The Herald Sun can exclusively reveal that Dunlop – who signed on for five years as the official ball partner of Tennis Australia in 2019 – has had its contract renewed.

“Tennis Australia and Dunlop have renewed their partnership for a further five years,” a TA spokesperson told the Herald Sun.

“Dunlop has a long history of producing high-quality tennis balls with consistency, durability and little variance. Dunlop is the most-used ball on the international tennis tour.

“Player satisfaction is vital and we will continue to gather feedback from the playing group and ensure it is factored in to the design, manufacturing and testing process.”

The deal comes despite images of players squeezing flat, lifeless balls and returning duds to officials taking the shine off the first week of this year’s Australian Open.

While some of this year’s extra-long rallies have appeared aesthetically pleasing on TV, the reality is the superstars swinging their racquets are frustrated that they can’t finish points.

They say the ridiculous rallies are a symptom of hitting lifeless balls because they can’t generate enough sizzle to smash clean winners.

Fourteen matches have lasted more than four hours and marathon man Andy Murray – who has played the longest two matches – said the balls-up was to blame.

“I saw that (Alexei) Popyrin is playing now over four hours. (Casper) Ruud played over three-and-a-half hours. I think we are going to see more of those longer duration of matches this year than we have maybe last year,” nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic said.

“I mean, (the balls are) different from last year.”

Defending champion Rafael Nadal declared before the tournament that the 2023 balls were poor quality and a chorus of complaints have backed up the No.1 seed’s claims.

Even players who are sponsored by Dunlop have criticised how quickly the balls go soft and fluffy.

But TA is clearly confident the balls are up to scratch and has promised to take player feedback onboard when completing this year’s tournament debrief.

The Australian Open made the switch from Wilson balls to Dunlop in 2019 in what was a rare ball change at a grand slam.

Wimbledon has used Slazenger’s balls since 1902 – one of the longest partnerships in world sport – and the US Open has used Wilson balls since 1978. The French Open also uses Wilson balls.

Tournament director Craig Tiley said Tennis Australia was thrilled with Dunlop’s quality when they made the switch from Wilson in 2019.

“We’ve worked closely with Dunlop for some time and are impressed with their quality control at every stage, from design right through to the manufacturing process,” Tiley said when the deal was signed.

This year’s attacks were not the first time Dunlop had its balls smashed publicly.

“I don’t know what the Australian Open has done, but it’s terrible. I think they’re pretty cheap from what I’ve heard,” Aussie Bernard Tomic said shortly after the Dunlop deal was signed.

Even living legend Roger Federer questioned the balls in 2019.

But nothing has compared to this year’s pile-on that was ignited by Nadal and backed up by Djokovic, Holger Rune, Felix Auger Aliassime and Murray.

In Auger Aliassime’s second-round match he demonstrated that the balls weren’t bouncing to the chair umpire – who agreed with him that they were not up to scratch.

“I’m bouncing the ball to serve, I know (that the balls are not bouncing). I’ve never seen it before,” the Canadian said on the court.

However they have been locked in at Melbourne Park until at least 2028.

Dunlop claims its balls are “obsessively crafted and meticulously engineered” on its website.

“We use only the purest natural rubber. Then we add our secret recipe and blend to create the final rubber compound,” it says of the first stage of production.

Originally published as Australian Open renews controversial Dunlop balls contract

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