PERTH, Dec 29: The first players to trial Australia’s new Grand Slam playing surface have given it only a lukewarm reception, saying it is too slow.

After almost 20 years of Open play on Rebound Ace, 2008’s first Grand Slam will be played on the new American-manufactured Plexicushion surface when the tournament starts on Jan 14.

Australian hope Lleyton Hewitt has backed the surface, but those playing here at the Hopman Cup, the first official tournament to use Plexicushion, have been less impressed.

The rationale in making the change was that Plexicushion would be quicker and more consistent than Rebound Ace, but American Mardy Fish and Serbian duo Novak Djokovic and Jelena Jankovic have all expressed concerns over the lack of pace.

Speaking here on Saturday after easily beating Rohan Bopanna in his opening singles match at the Hopman Cup, Fish was blunt with his assessment on Plexicushion.

Fish, who produced a career-best result in reaching the quarter-finals of this year’s Australian Open, said the court was too slow for his liking and that the surface also had a negative effect on the balls.

“I’m not a huge fan of it, to be honest,” Fish said. “It is a little bit slow for me. The balls get really fluffy and it plays extremely slow.”

Although she hadn’t played an official match on the surface yet, Jankovic said she too expected a slower surface in Melbourne than in previous years.

Both Jankovic and Djokovic have been practising on the Plexicushion and have noticed the lack of pace.

“It seems quite slower than the Rebound Ace I played on last year in Sydney and Melbourne,” she said. “I thought it was going to be faster, but it seems to me a lot slower.”

Djokovic’s initial experience led him to a similar conclusion, but he added it was hard to predict how the surface might change with further use.

“For now, it is pretty slow,” he said. “After a couple of days or a week, it can get faster, so we will see how it goes.”—AFP

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