Governing body Tennis Australia (TA) has re-signed UK sports equipment firm Dunlop as the official ball of the Australian Open grand slam until at least 2028 despite widespread criticism over the quality of balls being used at the current tournament.

The renewal comes after several high-profile players – including Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray – have publicly complained about this year’s batch, which they say wears down quickly and loses pressure, reducing their ability to hit winners.

The decline in ball quality, they say, has resulted in longer rallies, longer matches, and later finishes, which has been a major talking point during the tournament so far.

Despite the criticism, a TA spokesperson said: “TA and Dunlop have renewed their partnership for a further five years.

“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 paying group and ensure it is factored into the design, manufacturing, and testing process.”

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The renewal builds on the TA and Dunlop partnership that started ahead of the 2019 tournament. At the time, the manufacturer claimed: “players often refer to the Dunlop balls as being the best on the tour.”

Defending champion Nadal complained the balls were inferior to other years, adding: “It’s a ball that doesn’t get the same spin as usual. After a couple of hits, the ball loses the pressure,” while nine-time Australian Open winner Djokovic said: “The longer you play, the fluffier the ball becomes, and it’s slower.”

However, addressing the controversy on Australia’s SEN Radio, tournament director Craig Tiley said this year’s ball was “exactly the same specification” as last year, adding; “One thing that has been different this year has been the conditions.

“We’ve had more extreme heat, more rain, more extremes in weather. That has changed the conditions.”

The Australian Open is the only grand slam using Dunlop balls, with Wilson remaining the official partner of the US Open. The Wimbledon Championships has a long-running partnership with Slazenger, while the French Open is aligned with the domestic brand Babolat.

Dunlop, which is owned by Japan’s Sumitomo Rubber Industries, is also the official ball of the men’s top-tier ATP Tour in a five-year deal struck in January 2019 that is due to expire at the end of this year.

Meanwhile, the organizers of the Australian Open have announced the record daily attendance figure was broken on Saturday (January 21) after more than 94,000 people gathered at Melbourne Park to watch the grand slam’s third-round action.

Day six of the tournament was watched by a total of 94,854 people, which beat the previous record of 93,709, which was struck on the sixth day of the Australian Open in 2020.

The day session was attended by 60,457, while a record 34,397 watched the night session.

The day session saw Australia’s Alex de Minaur beat France’s Benjamin Bonzi on Rod Laver Arena, while Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic won over Italy’s Camila Giorgi.

During the night session, meanwhile, Djokovic beat Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov at Rod Laver Arena, while Murray lost to Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut at Margaret Court Arena.

The first week of the Australian Open ended on Sunday with a total attendance of 534,528.

This year’s Australian Open is the first held without Covid-19 attendance restrictions since 2020, with organizers targeting a total attendance of 900,000 fans across the 14 days of the tournament.

The Australian Open started on January 16 and will end on Sunday (January 29).

Image: Will Russell/Getty Images