PARIS (Reuters) - French Open organisers have had enough problems dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the dwindling number of fans on site and inclement weather but they faced another controversy on Friday -- criticism of the choice of ball for this year's edition.
Roland Garros has switched to Wilson balls for the 2020 tournament after using Babolat for many years and 12-times champion Rafa Nadal was not impressed.
"You have to take care because with these conditions you can't practise that much because the ball is super heavy," the second-seeded Spaniard told reporters on Friday.
"Different brand than last year, a new ball. The ball is much slower than the previous years. If we add these conditions of cold and humidity, then it is super heavy."
Nadal, a 19-time Grand Slam champion, prefers warmer weather and faster claycourts at his favourite tournament but faces cooler and wetter conditions at this year's event, which was pushed back to the fo end September from its May-June dates.
While the decision to change the ball was already known, Nadal felt the prevailing conditions had an even bigger impact.
"I practised with the balls in Mallorca," said the Spaniard. "In Mallorca with warm conditions, the ball was very slow, I think (it's) not a good ball to play on clay, honestly. That is my personal opinion.
"Even with these conditions it makes things tougher. But I knew before arriving here. So no problem at all. Just accept the challenge.
"(But) I really believe that the organisation need to take a look at that for the next couple of years, for the health of the players too, because the ball is super heavy. (It) becomes dangerous for the elbow and for the shoulders, I think."
Austria's newly-crowned U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem, who lost to Nadal in the final of the last two editions at Roland Garros, also prefers the ball used in previous editions.
"I practised two days at home with the ball. Now, of course, here. I'm a little bit sad because the Babolat at Roland Garros, it was my favourite ball, it was perfect," he said.
"Obviously it was the ball from my racket company. (It) was fast, was taking 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."
However, Russian Daniil Medvedev, who prefers slower claycourt conditions and less spin, had no complaints.
"I like the balls because, yeah, tennis is a funny and interesting sport," said the world number five, who lost to Nadal in last year's U.S. Open final.
"It's normal that when one player doesn't like something, second one maybe is going to like it. So far I like it. I think it suits me not bad."
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing By Ken Ferris)