“Blue. The colour suits you. Blue. The colour fools you. How will you stay this way forever?” – Cool Blue, Eurythmics.
Nothing like a bit of 80’s synth-pop to sum up the mood of the tennis community right?
The debut of the blue clay courts at this week’s Mutua Madrid Open has divided fans and even the players who must compete on them into two very different ideological camps. One side finds the color a novel and some would even say innovative idea. Ryan Harrison on his Twitter account said, “Just finished first day on the blue clay here in Madrid! It’s awesome.” while Venus Williams also gave her approval saying she wished she had thought of it first. Perhaps “Madrid Blue” will be part of the V Starr Interiors color swatch palette for 2013.
But there are others, many in fact, who are rather cool to the idea and implementation of the new clay, saying that not only does it disrupt tradition, but that its use comes at an inappropriate time since Madrid is only weeks away from the all important French Open. Venus’s sister Serena Williams has several times voiced her disapproval while even today, Spain’s favorite son Rafael Nadal made it clear he is still not pleased with the ATP’s decision to allow the switch even after many players voiced their dissent.
Still other players, including Sam Stosur, have said that it doesn’t matter what color the courts are as long as they play better than in previous years, citing the event’s reputation as having less than elite courts in terms of maintenance and surface.
Nevertheless, ‘azul is the colour’ as Sade once sang (yes another 80’s reference) that everyone will be focusing on next week. The real question of how does the surface actually play has been answered in various ways. Some have said the ball bounces lower while others feel like the court is slippery and plays faster than last year. Add in the altitude of Madrid and that “La Caja Magica” can become an indoor court just like that, and you have an event that seems to favor some players over others.
Who could it favor? On the women’s side, defending champion Petra Kvitova certainly has proved she likes a roof over her head while last year’s finalist Victoria Azarenka is a better player than she was 12 months ago. Add in the Williams Sisters who displayed some vintage form on the slippery green clay of Charleston and Maria Sharapova who’s become a decent dirtballer and you have the makings of a great week for the WTA.
As far as the hombres go, the last minute withdrawal of Andy Murray seems to have benefited John Isner who has fallen into the same section as the now No. 4 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who, let’s face it, probably won’t go very far. But the pressure will be on Isner to prove his rising reputation on the dirt is deserved, especially if he gets a chance to tangle with Nadal in the semifinals.
So should we ignore the results from this week in terms of how they might impact Roland Garros in a few weeks time? Or do we treat them as important signs of who could find themselves playing on the final weekend of competition in Paris? I guess it all depends on how which definition of cool you use to describe the blue clay of Madrid.