By Alana Mitchelson
(January 11, 2014) MELBOURNE – Players have had mixed reactions to the speed of Australian courts this Summer as the first Grand Slam of the 2014 tennis season approaches.
While Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley maintains that the court surfaces at Melbourne Park remain unchanged from last year’s event (as per the Sydney Morning Herald), a handful of players including some of the sport’s best have recently speculated that the courts feel faster than in previous years.
Among them, is a somewhat perplexed Rafael Nadal who remains adamant the court speed in Melbourne Park is significantly different to what it was two years ago when he was last here. He expressed his concern for the entertainment value of matches being affected by a potential change of pace.
“Completely different conditions to what I remember,” the World No. 1 said.
“These are faster conditions than I’ve ever played before here in Australia. I really don’t understand very well why the change because the last couple of years the Australian Open has had amazing matches – long ones, good ones for the crowd – so I don’t know who decided to make the conditions that fast. I don’t know if, for the show, it’s the best thing.
“I hope to adjust my game to these conditions.”
Roger Federer, on the other hand, has expressed his utter confusion over the whole court speed debate and acknowledged that while there may be inconsistencies in speed across tournaments, he personally feels no difference in conditions this year at Melbourne Park.
“I think even in these conditions here, we’ll see long rallies after all. We’re not talking about a lightning speed court. In Brisbane it was fast, but it wasn’t lightning either. This is like medium, if that. I don’t know what the big problem is. Really, you can still play from the baseline, no problem. You can stay back, return from the back, you can do all that stuff if you want to. It’s not like it’s impossible. And he (Nadal) even does it on the indoors where you don’t think that should be possible. That’s how he beat me in London anyway.”
Andy Murray has offered that these speculations may have eventuated from the extreme heat Melbourne has experienced over the past week and that the temperature is affecting the speed of the ball alone.
“Same (courts) as last year, exactly the same. Same balls. Same speed. Laver is a little bit faster than Hisense,” Murray said.
“The courts and the balls are exactly the same as last year. No different. When it’s 40 degrees, of course it’s going to play quicker. But the courts are the same.”
Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website http://alanamitchelson.wordpress.com