The much publicized resurfacing of the courts fresh for the 2008 Australian Open has caused a fervent if ultimately rather pointless debate amongst both the ATP and WTA elite.
Since the venue moved from Kooyong’s grass courts to Melbourne Park in 1988 the surface of choice down under has been the much maligned Rebound Ace. The surface is made up from a rubberised series of underlayers half an inch thick. Often the surface varied in speed and bounce from court to court and particularly in higher temperatures, a single court would have varying response. In the hot summer months – when the Open is played, competitors would frequently complain that the ball reacted differently across the court – with shaded areas and sunlit ares providing different conditions.
This, and other more ridiculous claims made over the years (that the surface’s bumpy layers resulted in frequent ankle injuries) resulted in the change to Plexicushion. This two-tone blue coloured material similar to that used in the US Open has a reportedly lower bounce due to a thinner underlayer of 4mm and will apparently offer a faster game.
Some players however have already voiced their concern or indifference to the surface amidst a rather overblown media furore in Australia’s local press. Upon announcing his readiness for his title defence on Sunday Roger Federer was far from enthusiastic: “I think the surface is a little bit too slow…everything is already slowing down…everybody’s already complaining that we’re playing too much from the baseline…we’ll only see more of that here in Australia, that’s for sure.”
Damning stuff, but interestingly players who thrive on the flat baseline game have no problems with the surface, Maria Screamapova commented: “I don’t think it’s as sticky as the Rebound Ace, definitely” and then “I think it’s great for the body.” Whatever that means.
Of course each player has their own preferred playing surface and conditions and while the majority of players, notably Rafael Nadal, Justine Henin and Serena Williams (“It’s blue now, but I still like it…It’s not as bouncy as last year. They all kind of feel alike to me”) have found no real difference, some players (notably Marion Bartoli in a video interview with Eurosport) are using Plexicushion seemingly as an excuse, citing that it was too slow for their game.
As is already proving the case however it is now the sublime matches (Marcos and Marat thank you!) on these courts not the courts themselves that’s getting everyone talking now.
Image and quotes: http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/01/13/sports/srtennis.php?page=2