The Blue Clay Experiment In Madrid, Was It Worth It?

May 17, 2012
After Roger Federer had recorded his third win at the Madrid Masters in Spain last week and joined fellow record holder Rafael Nadal with 20 Masters titles, attention quickly focused to whether or not the experiment with the blue clay in Madrid was actually worth it.
From a pure viewing perspective the blue courts certainly ticked the box for me, the ball can be seen so much clearer on TV than when it’s played on the traditional red dirt, the blue court contrasts well with the yellow tennis ball and it certainly makes for a more enjoyable viewing experience.
I even enjoyed the pace of the court and I actually wish the tour had more variety in it’s surfaces throughout the year, watching a slow to medium court where players rally from the baseline for long periods can get a wee bit tedious at times, so the pace of the court in Madrid also ticked the box for me.
It was also a refreshing change to see attacking play and players being rewarded for their endeavours, mind you that may have had something to do with the third aspect I will now look at, the court surface.
The court surface at the Mutua Madrid Open was clearly responsible for the majority of the criticism that the tournament received, most players complained that the courts were far too slippery and did not allow for firm footing which ultimately could have led to accidents and injury.
The most vocal of all the players were Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, both players heavily criticised the surface before they crashed out of the tournament early, both Djokovic and Nadal have now threatended to boycott the event next year if the surface remains.
Clearly the tournament organisers will have a major issue on their hands if two of the world’s premier tennis players decide to bypass this event in 2013, I for one would like to see the blue colour remain in Madrid but I would also like to see all players being able to compete without worrying about the prospect of being injured.
It’s rumoured that the dyeing process could have been partially responsible for the slippery nature of the courts, I have also heard that they didn’t use enough clay component on the court surface which contributed to making it slick, assistant tournament director Carlos Moya has recently blamed salt for the slick nature of the courts.
Apparently salt, which is also used at Roland Garros, is laid down on top of the courts to keep moisture away from the surface, accordng to Moya the different conditions in Madrid meant the salt crystalised into an unbreakable film and this ended up being the main reason the courts were so slippery.
Whatever the reason or reasons were for the surface being too slippery, Moya and tournament owner Ion Tiriac will, I assume, address and rectify the problem so players and fans alike can all enjoy the blue clay court tournament next year.
Tennis does not need it’s premier players choosing to withdraw from a prestigious tournament because they either feel unsafe or they are unable to compete at their maximum level, for this reason I believe that Moya, Tiriac and his cohorts will iron out the surface issues and promote a much improved tournament surface in 2013.
Surely once the surface is significantly improved and it’s equal footing for all players to compete and do their best in Madrid, then the colour blue should add to the event and not detract from it, surely!
Choosing not to play on a court because it is a certain colour won’t wash with tennis administrators or fans alike, however choosing not to play on a court which is slippery and dangerous is certainly valid and justified.
As the dust settles on the blue clay experiment in Madrid there still seems to be quite a few questions that need to be answered before the tournament begins again next year, questions like….will the surface remain blue? if so, will the players footing be much improved? Will Nole and Rafa play if the courts remain blue?
Will the tournament organisers bow to pressure and revert back to the traditional red dirt? Will the ATP eventually make the decision and endorse a certain colour for Madrid?
Sometimes change is not always good but sometimes change is not always good straight away, lets hope the whole experience has made the organisation in Madrid even more determined to make a change for the better in 2013.
Written by: Tono

(3) Comments

Adunar says:
May 18, 2012

I like your post on the Madrid blue clay Tony.
I agree with you that it was better than the red dirt on TV, that’s for sure. I really hope they can keep the blue clay. The color shouldn’t have anything to do with the court and I’m sure they will find a way to make it not slippery next year. Maybe the red dirt in Madrid would have been slippery too this year… who knows? One year is more than enough for them to try to improve the surface and I really think think they will.

It was nice to finally see attacking style players be rewarded on clay courts. That doesn’t happen often with the likes of Nadal, Djokovic, Ferrer… Change is good as long as there aren’t too many. And changing the color of ONE tournement isn’t too much in my opinion. We will see what the player council and then the ATP will say soon.

Dragan says:
May 31, 2012

The blue clay sure helps Madrid Masters to built a unique look, and indentity.But I think that the organizers should keep that surface only if they can make it safe for the players.Otherwise it’s pointles to keep it and miss two top players, and to have others who are playing, but actually are watching to avoid injury.

Tono says:
Jun 1, 2012

Your message…
Totally agree Dragan….keep the blue colour but make sure it is safe and suitable footing for all players, I’m sure they will get it right before next year. :)

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