It’s a surface that does not find too many takers in the upper echelons of the sport. Despite being an Australian brand, the Rebound Ace synthetic courts were discontinued by the Australian Open in 2008. However, the Delhi Commonwealth Games will be held on this surface despite its dubious record.
“The surface does not behave consistently. Its speed and bounce varies according to the weather. When cold the ball has a tendency to stay low while it bounces higher when it’s hot,” said a surprised Leander Paes when told that the CWG tennis event will be conducted on Rebound Ace. “There were a number of complaints about it and that forced the Australian Open to change.”
Aussie Lleyton Hewitt, one of the fiercest critics of the Australian Open being played on Rebound Ace, has voiced the same concern. “Whether I'm playing in Adelaide, Sydney or Melbourne, it plays differently. The weather conditions have always affected it so much.”
“It is not at all conducive to a hot climate as the surface grabs the foot. That leads to ankle sprains and knee injuries,” adds Mahesh Bhupathi, whose views are echoed by Mark Philippoussis “The surface is very tough on your body. Rebound Ace, it's very sticky,” said Philippoussis. “Your shoes actually stick into the court that little bit longer and you feel that in your joints, your lower back and legs.”
Ominously enough, India’s rising star Yuki Bhambri twisted his ankle in the first tournament that was played after the courts had been laid. “We got to know later that it is better to use old shoes when playing on this surface as it has a tendency to grip more,” said Indu Bhambri, the player’s mother. “But I think he was just unlucky that time and has not really faced any problem later.”
Given that Rebound Ace has also garnered a significant number of DDA contracts along with the nodal center of the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association, the next generation of players from the Capital will be groomed on a surface that has an unenviable reputation.
Wimbledon champion Pat Cash has gone on record to say: “Rebound Ace is a terrible surface to develop tennis players on and unfortunately the national tennis centres around Australia all have Rebound Ace. We have got a crisis here that we have to address.”
Now, a similar crisis may well be looming over Delhi tennis.
with inputs from Deepti Patwardhan