Saturday, October 06, 2012

Dunlop Grand Prix / The Worst Tennis Ball Ever Made!

[Updated July 20, 2017] This post documents my FIVE year relationship with a tennis ball. 

“a tennis ball is the ultimate body. Perfectly round. Even distribution of mass. But empty inside, utterly, a vacuum. Susceptible to whim, spin, to force—used well or poorly. It will reflect your own character. Characterless itself. Pure potential.” -- David Foster Wallace

Part 1. October 6, 2012. "Storm Warning" 

The Greater Cincinnati Indoor Tennis Association ("G.C.I.T.A.") recently adopted the Dunlop Grand Prix as the official ball of the 2012/13 Interclub season.

David Foster Wallace’s magnificent description (from "Infinite Jest") of a tennis ball as an innocent, insignificant entity of “pure potential” does not apply to the Dunlop Grand Prix. The Dunlop Grand Prix is hard, heavy, dense, and quick-to-fuzz-up. These unfortunate characteristics make for a very unenjoyable game of tennis no matter what level you play. I have been playing tennis for a long time and the Grand Prix is the worst ball I have ever put a racket to. Neither my character nor my potential is fairly reflected with this ball.

A 5.0 former college player on my Interclub team commented on how many times his forehand hit the tape due to the "heaviness" of the ball. I find the Grand Prix particularly unpleasant when serving. A powerful service swing is met time and again with shoulder-jarring impact, almost as if you were striking a baseball or a large rock.

Besides negatively impacting play, I believe these balls can lead to injury for some types of players. The weight, density, and "fuzziness" are a recipe for shoulder, arm, and elbow pain.

I suffered a severe shoulder injury earlier this year and worked for several months to get back to the Show. By the end of the summer, I was just about back to normal. Around this time, the Grand Prix's made their debut at my Tuesday night doubles group. Everyone immediately noticed how heavy the balls felt. By the end of the first set, many players were complaining about the fuzziness and hardness of the balls. The next day my shoulder felt like someone had put a blowtorch to it.

If you dislike these balls as much as I do, please send an email to the G.C.I.T.A. at and request a change. While you are at it, stop by @DunlopSport on Twitter and let them know what you think about these balls.

In my opinion, Wilson U.S. Open (@WilsonTennis) and Penn Championship balls are superb. Perfect weight, density, and no fuzziness! It seems the G.C.I.T.A. must have gotten a sweet deal and saved a few pennies per can on the dismal Dunlops that they are forcing upon players.

Part 2. March 27, 2013. "The Agony and the Agony..." 
After taking a month off from Interclub singles play for my fatherly responsibilities, I returned to action on Saturday, March 16. Towards the end of the first set of play I could feel my arm breaking down. Perhaps my four week absence had caused me to lose all of the "Dunlop Immunity" I had built up. By the end of the match, I was serving at 50% speed. My forearm and elbow were on fire. This searing pain lasted for several days. I haven't played tennis (singles or doubles) since that match. It seems as though the prediction I made in October has come true!

"Besides negatively impacting play, I believe these balls can lead to injury for some types of players. The weight, density, and "fuzziness" are a recipe for shoulder, arm, and elbow pain."

I have decided that as long as Dunlop Grand Prix balls are The Official Ball of the G.C.I.T.A., I will no longer play Interclub singles. This also means I will be stepping down as Team Captain; a postion I have held for 13 years or so. I will try to play doubles next session. Since the serving rotation is one in  every four (instead of one in every two), my arm and shoulder might be able to withstand the Dunlop assault. I am thoroughly convinced that Dunlop Grand Prix balls lead to shoulder and arm injuries, especially for players who use stiff rackets and polyester strings like myself. Play with these balls at your own peril.

Part 3. July 1, 2013. "Dunlop Grand Prix, Lateral Epicondylitis, and Me" 
Dunlop-induced Lateral epicondylitis (aka "Tennis Elbow") has continued to keep me on the sidelines. I have been performing stretching and strengthening exercises on a daily basis. Despite time and rehab, I am still experiencing a fair amount of pain. I hit a few serves and hit against a backboard yesterday and as a result my arm feels slightly worse than usual. This is actually a good sign as I expected the pain to be much more severe. It's possible I could return to the court on 7/9 or 7/16. If my return is on 7/16 it will be a nice and tidy FOUR month absence thanks to Dunlop. The moral of my story? Simple. Avoid Dunlop Grand Prix!

Part 4. July 16, 2013. "Do You Believe in Miracles?" 
[Dirty Dozen Doubles, Harper's Point Outdoor Clay, 7pm, Temperature ~93 degrees, Heat Index ~100 degrees] After exactly FOUR months off the circuit I wasn't expecting much, nobody was… All I was realistically hoping for was to hold a couple serves and escape the evening without debilitating pain. I should have known better…

After two hours of sweltering conditions, I nearly swept all three sets (7-6, 6-4, 5-7) and put on a performance that can best be described as a Miracle. It's as if I had never stopped playing. And before some wise ass accuses me of competing against grade school children, I can assure you that the competition was stiff with a capital S. 

My court mates included co-worker Brian Telintelo, Judge Brad Greenberg, and some guy named Dave Maclean, not a bad player in the bunch. The first set was particularly satisfying and will forever be synaptically committed. The Judge and I found ourselves down most of the set to the hard-hitting youngster Telintelo and his partner Dave; 2-4 and 3-5 in the set, and 0-3 in the tie-breaker. However, we somehow found a way to win and pulled off a 7-6 (7-5) victory that was instantly recognized as a Dirty Dozen Classic ("DDC").

After more than two hours on court, I can confidently say that my arm feels no worse than before. Thousands of reps with various grip strengthening devices over the past four months have apparently paid off. 

Is this over? Not by a long shot. I will not rest until the Dunlop Grand Prix is excised from the G.C.I.T.A. equipment list. Stay tuned...

Part 5.  August 23, 2013. "The 59 gram Scourge" 
Since my triumphant return on July 16, 2013, I have played doubles four more times and have performed well. There is still some lingering pain, but all appears to be well. G.C.I.T.A. Interclub starts on Sept 7 and I will once again have to deal with the 59 gram rock-hard scourge known as the Dunlop Grand Prix. Will my arm and shoulder survive? Only the tennis gods know for certain. Be sure to check back for more updates.

Part 6. August 20, 2014. "Redemption" or "The Ball Remains The Same" 
Nearly a year after my last update, Dunlop remains but so do I. The past year has seen injury-free (and winning) sessions of both Interclub and Dirty Dozen. I have lowered the tension of my Babolat Pure Drive Plus' ALU Rough strings down to the mid 40's. This seems to have alleviated some of my issues. I will continue to lobby against the  Dunlop Grand Prix. Perhaps one day it will be nothing more than a bad memory, occasionally showing up as an old practice ball in a pro's shopping cart, its lettering barely visible.

Part 7. July 19, 2016. "What Doesn't Kill You..." 
It's been almost four years since my first post. The Dunlop Grand Prix is still a fixture within the GCITA and Harper's Point Racquet Club. I haven't returned to singles play but I have continued to play doubles and just came off a 16-1 season. For the time being my body has seemed to adapt to the Grand Prix. And although I'm sure I'd get a lot more free points on my serve with Penn or Wilson, I believe the Dunlop balls could be better for my groundstrokes as they are less prone to fly off due to their heavier weight. I've had minor shoulder pain this year but nothing that has prevented me from playing. For now, the Dunlop Grand Prix and I have reached a detente. Hopefully it lasts!

Part 8. July 20, 2017. "What Doesn't Kill You II" 
It's been one year since my last post and nearly five years since my first. I came off a very respectable winning Winter session in G.C.I.T.A. 4.5 Doubles. Dunlop is here. I am here. Not much has changed. However one tennis-related thing has changed, five years ago when the Dunlop Grand Prix invaded Harper's Point Racket Club, Roger Federer was not the best tennis player in the world. Right now, he is the best without question. I hope to see him at the Cincy Masters in August. Maybe I'll write an article about it. ;) 


Edwin Dario said...

D- I like the tennis balls that get all fuzzy, but without the extra weight, e.g. Wilson US Open. Penn's are decent but lose it's fuzziness way too fast. But yes, in my opinion, all Dunlop tennis balls suck.

Kelly said...

I never got much into tennis when I became too busy with my home theater Austin TX.. Anyway, I think it's about time for DUNLOP to take this dilemma into consideration. I personally wouldn't prefer using Wilson Championship..