Edited on May 17th to include ITF's "Return to tennis Guidelines".
Although it is still not clear when and in what form the padel courts will return to action, it is evident that this return will bring with it changes to routines and habits. In fact, there are already many initiatives and protocols being developed to minimize the risk of infection during play.
The padel ball is one of the elements receiving the most attention in protocols as all players hold the ball in their hand during play, at a minimum when serving, contaminating it in the process and increasing the risk of infection for the rest of the players.
The International Padel Federation does propose in an internal work document leaked during the last days that players wear a glove on their non-dominant hand and suggests the frequent use of disinfectant hydrogels. This alone does not guarantee that the spread of the virus will be prevented. The glove and the use of hydrogels lose all effectiveness the moment a player touches any part of their body, such as their face, a reflex motion that is extremely difficult to avoid in sports. In fact, the World Health Organinzation considers more effective frequent hand washing than the use of gloves. So basically if a player touches the ball after touching their body, the risk of infection remains.
Frequent hand washing and playing with 4 balls on court. A small act that minimizes the risk of spreading coronavirus.
Without going any further the ITF (International Tennis Federation) recommend in its Return to Tenis Guidelines that each player "should use his/her own set of (separately numbered) balls".
Something as simple as playing with 4 balls on the court can minimize the risk of infection. To do this, when opening a 4-ball pack each player must take a ball and keep it in their pocket for the duration of the match. The ball chosen by each player should be used only when it is that player’s turn to serve, and they are the only player that should touch it with their hand. All other players who are not serving must avoid touching the ball with their hand. In the case of second service or having to pass the ball to the server, this should be done by foot or with the racket.
Easy, right? In this simple way, we can prevent the balls from passing through the hands of all players and avoid the risk of spreading the virus.
We also recommend the use of 2 x 4-ball packs for the most intensive players. This way, each player will have two balls in their pocket ready for service, and in the event of losing one in play, no player will be left without a ball. While this may appear to significantly increase costs in the game, keep in mind that the more balls there are on the court the less they will be used, meaning the balls will last a greater number of matches.
Playing with 4 balls on court has other advantages too:
- The balls have greater durability. With more balls on the court, each ball is usedless, meaning they also suffer less wear and tear.
- During warm up, each couple has 2 balls ready to go. Again, this has an impact on the durability of the balls. When playing with 3, there is always 1 ball that suffers more impacts during warm up.
- The price-per-ball for the NOX 4-ball can is lower than for the 3-ball can. If you need a lot of balls, as is the case for padel schools, for coaches, etc... it works out cheaper.
Try playing with 4 balls. For your health and your pocket!