Monday, June 13, 2011

More on Altitude: Balls and Courts Part 2

Paul Lubbers made the two obvious suggestions to help us account for our thinner air.  First he suggested the "green" ball.  That's the 25 - 30% reduced compression ball.  It's actually a combination of lower compression and less mass that makes for a roughly 25 - 30% reduction in speed.  Second he suggested clay courts.  Good suggestions, both.  But both have problems.

First, the ball.  The green ball over-compensates for the thin air at the altitudes where I live (roughly 1600 meters above sea level).  Since this is all about me, and not about people living at 1700 or 1900 meters, that solution doesn't quite cut it.

Second, the clay court option.  As I've written before, we live in a dry climate.  Clay courts are prohibitively expensive for most cities, clubs, etc.  The under-ground hydration systems work well, but they are expensive and any problems are rough since the system is under the courts.

A friend suggested to me that the reason we have only a 9% reduction in compression may (and I stress MAY) be that the ball manufacturers can still pass off the high-altitude ball as a lower-priced option at lower altitudes.  The lowest quality ball sold at discount stores needn't be "approved for tournament play" to sell well.  And those buyers won't notice a 9% difference.  That's only a couple of weeks or months of aging and that's not a big deal to less serious players.  But if the manufacturers were to make a ball that was 17% lower compression, well, that may be a bit too much to ask low-altitude discount shoppers to buy.  I am not an industry insider so I can't say if this is true or not.  But I think it's reasonable.  Ball manufacturers, like all manufacturers, like to have outlets for excess manufacturing.

We may be stuck up here taking the lesser of evils approach.  I believe that training and playing with lower compression balls is the lesser of evils.  Sure, our players will struggle controlling the ball when we go to lower altitude, but at least we'll be prepared to play long points.  The shorter points at low-altitude will be a relief!!

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