At the French Open, Cold Weather and a Ball That Will Not Behave

“Some of those balls we were using you wouldn’t give to a dog to chew,” said Daniel Evans of Britain, who lost to Kei Nishikori of Japan in five sets on Sunday. “It’s tough to get that ball to go anywhere.”

Forget, who was once ranked as high as No. 4 in men’s singles, had this advice for players obsessing about the nontraditional behavior of the ball at a time when nothing about Grand Slam tennis is as it usually is: Deal with it, just as you would deal with the slippery grass that characterizes the first few days of play at Wimbledon compared with the hard, dry ground during the second week of the tournament.

“This is part of what tennis is, playing in different conditions,” Forget said. “You have to adjust to it.”

Adjustments can be both psychological and technical. The most basic move that players are making is loosening their strings. Looser strings increase the trampoline effect. John Isner, the big-serving American, has lowered the tension of his strings by roughly 15 percent.

Not everyone is feeling bothered by the changes.

“Me, I like the balls,” said Daniil Medvedev, the rising Russian with a quirky arsenal who has struggled to advance at Roland Garros and plays his first-round match Monday. “Tennis is a fun and interesting sport. Sometimes one player doesn’t like something, but another player will like it. So far, I love it.”

As it nearly always does at Roland Garros, the conversation may begin and end with the performance of Nadal. He struggled at the Italian Open earlier this month. That tournament also took place in cooler than usual temperatures, and Nadal lost in straight sets on clay against Diego Schwartzman as his ball lacked its usual life.

Nadal spent much of the pandemic training in the balmy climate of Mallorca, Spain, where he is from. One day into the tournament in Paris, one thing is very clear — he is not in Mallorca anymore.

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