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Nadal: New Balls Please!

Rafael Nadal isn’t exactly bouncing with joy over new balls at Roland Garros—he’s concerned they could be a health hazard.

The Wilson ball debuts as the official Roland Garros ball when main-draw action begins on Sunday. It replaces the Babolat ball which has been used in recent years.

Reigning Roland Garros champion Nadal, who practiced with the ball in Mallorca before returning to the ATP Tour in Rome last week, calls the Wilson Roland Garros ball “super heavy” and “much slower than the previous years.”

Nadal is playing for his record-extending 13th French Open crown and his 20th major title, which would match Roger Federer’s all-time Grand Slam record. Nadal, who plays with a Babolat racquet, said the new Wilson ball is the wrong ball for the cool, damp conditions of Paris in autumn.

“I practiced with the balls in Mallorca before the comeback. In Mallorca with warm conditions, the ball was very slow, I think not a good ball to play on clay, honestly,” Nadal told the media in Paris. “That is my personal opinion. Is not the right ball to play on clay court. Even with these conditions makes the things tougher, no?”

Combine the new ball with conditions that could be as much as 20 degrees cooler than in Rome last week and Nadal knows his heavy topspin will lose some sting. The king of clay said he accepts the challenge it all brings, but hopes the tournament will review the ball “for the health of the players” in the future.

“But I knew before arrived here. No problem at all,” Nadal said. “Just accept the challenge. I really believe that the organization need to take a look on that for the next couple of years, for the health of the players, too, because the ball super heavy becomes dangerous for the elbow and for the shoulders, I think.

“But this year is what we have. Just staying positive with this. I know we going to have to play with this ball, so I need to find the best feelings possible with these conditions. That’s what I am looking forward, just practicing with the right motivation, right ambition, and then let’s see what I can do or what I can’t do.”

Asked his reaction to the new ball, Daniil Medvedev, who plays much flatter than Nadal, offered positive praise.

“I like the balls because, yeah, tennis is a funny and interesting sport,” Medvedev said. “It’s normal that when one player doesn’t like something, second one maybe is going to like it I like it so far.

“As I say always, tough to say anything before you play your first match. That’s where you really get the sensations. Or you lose and say, Okay, I didn’t like it. Or you win and get into the tournament.”

US Open champion Dominic Thiem, plays with a Babolat racquet and like Nadal prefers the Babolat ball though the two-time Roland Garros runner-up said the new Wilson ball is “fine.”

“I’m little bit sad because the Babolat at Roland Garros, it was my favorite ball, it was perfect,” Thiem said. “Obviously it was the ball from my racquet company. Was fast, was taking the spin incredibly well.

“But the Wilson ball is good, as well. It’s just a little bit slower. It gets a little bit bigger after a while. In general, the conditions are going to be slower. It can be rainy, can be very cold. So we will see.”