ITF introduces three types of balls to counter power game

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The International Tennis Federation has stepped in to counter the power serves of the men's game by introducing three types of balls to be used according to the pace of the surface.

The changes, made at the ITF's annual general meeting in Cancun, Mexico at the weekend, means the type of surface the match is played on will determine the type of ball used.

The ITF voted "overwhelmingly" to use new balls in future play. Ball type 1 (fast speed) is identical in size to the standard ball except it is manufactured with harder rubber. Ball type 2 (medium speed) is the standard ball and ball type 3 (slow speed) is six percent larger in diameter than the standard ball and tends to move slower in flight. All are the same weight as a standard ball.

"I want to congratulate the AGM for their approval of this important amendment and thank the tennis ball manufacturers for their support during this experimental period and in the run–up to the AGM," said ITF president Francesco Ritti.

The introduction of the different balls will slow down the power and speed of serves on hard courts, but speed up the game on slow surfaces, such as clay.

The ITF said the larger type 3 ball flies off the racket at the same speed as a standard ball, but will slow down during flight to give the receiver about 10 percent more reaction time.

It's report said during two years of experimentation, including testing at Davis Cup and Fed Cup ties and men's professional events, the larger ball improved accuracy, allowed for longer rallies at all levels of play and increased ball visibility for players and spectators.

The ITF said a study by the South Bank University in London showed players could play for 35 percent longer when using a type 3 ball. The type 1 ball has a harder specification which produces a lower angle of bounce on surfaces such as clay, making it faster.

Tennis has had very few major rule changes in more than 100 years, most notably the introduction of the tiebreaker in 1970 and the decision to vary the speed of the ball is likely to hamper big servers such as Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic.

The AGM also approved an experiment with a deciding super tiebreaker, which was used recently at the mixed doubles final at the U.S. Open. It will be carried out until Dec. 31, 2002 and will be played when a match is either one set all or two sets all to replace the deciding set. The player who first reaches 10 points is the winner, provided he or she leads by a two–point margin.

The ITF has given the ATP and WTA the option of using the tiebreaker at its tournaments.

The AGM also voted to accept an application by the Kyrgyzstan Tennis Federation to become a class B member of the ITF.

The AGM "overwhelming approved" of a proposal that team uniforms in national colors should be worn at Davis Cup, Fed Cup and other international team competitions. The ITF will seek co–operation with member countries and will vote next year's AGM in Morocco whether to make uniforms compulsory.

A new board of directors was voted in, who will serve until 2003. They were Geoff Pollard (Australia), Ian King (Britain), Juan Margets (Spain), Eiichi Kawatei (Japan), Mervin Heller (United States), Christian Bimes (France), Eduardo Moline O'Conner (Argentina), Julia Levering (United States), Jan Carlzon (Sweden), Paul Chingoka (Zimbabwe), Georg van Waldenfels (Germany) and Ruurd de Boer (Netherlands).