Rafael Nadal seems to be angry about a lot of things lately. The US Open scheduling, the intensity of the entire season and how it (badly) combines the Davis Cup with the ATP tour tournaments, Roger Federer not taking his side. Now it’s the Madrid Open changing from the traditional red clay to a new blue clay surface, which no one seems to like.
Nadal might seem a bit of the complaining type if you’ve followed his comments this past year, but he usually has a point. A point about the tennis players being overworked. A point about the US Open organizers forcing players to come out and play during freak hours because they have scheduling problems. A point about Roger Federer not taking more of a stance against the ATP, leading to Nadal resigning from his position in the ‘union’ after failing to organize a strike.
Now it’s the new blue clay in Madrid, which is dislikes by many. Why did they even change? So it’ll match the color of the main sponsor, Mutua Madrilena. When the change was announced in 2009, Manuel Santana, the tournament’s director, assured that there will be no difference from red clay except for the color of the surface. I guess they’ve been watching too many Boise State games, or didn’t tune in when the NBA changed balls. These changes don’t turn out well.
Nadal practiced on the surface for the first time last Thursday. His description of the surface? Soft and slippery. He also criticized the placement of advertising boards at either end as too low and the same color as the surface. Nadal hasn’t been a fan of the organizers for quite some time, especially because of the date and the weather of the tournament since it became an outdoor tournament, stating that playing in Madrid during this time of year hurts his game and doesn’t make it feel like a Clay tournament.
My thoughts haven’t changed on the concept and organization of this tournament. My criticism is not directed at the tournament but at the ATP, which should never have allowed such a change at a tournament of this scale. This is a clay-court event that is least like a clay-court event. There is always a chance of playing worse here. I only speak my mind for the good of the tour and the players, so that we have a clay tournament with few problems.
Nadal has two titles in Madrid and has lost in the finals two more times, including last season to Novak Djokovic. Maybe not winning it as easily as he has in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and the Roland Garros brings out the worst in him.
But Nadal hasn’t been the only one to complain about the new surface. The complaints? Just like Nadal – Soft, causing a low bounce, and too slippery. Maybe it’s just something that needs getting used to, or maybe it is just a huge mistake by the organizers and the ATP.