x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

ATP rule on Madrid clay a blue note to viewers

Call it a victory for reactionary forces. The ATP has ruled that the Madrid Open cannot be played on blue clay next year,

Rafael Nadal was one of those outspoken about his dislike of the blue clay at the Madrid Open.
Rafael Nadal was one of those outspoken about his dislike of the blue clay at the Madrid Open.

 

Call it a victory for reactionary forces. The ATP has ruled that the Madrid Open cannot be played on blue clay next year, perhaps because Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal said they would not play on the revolutionary surface.

The blue clay exists for two reasons, and one is quite a good one: a blue surface makes following the ball easier for television viewers. The other reason is less compelling: because it brings attention to Ion Tiriac, former player and the owner of the Madrid tournaments.

Players are keen to embrace all manner of bizarre rackets to give themselves an advantage, but several threw a tantrum when asked to play on blue clay.

Nadal called it "a mistake" and demanded the return of red clay. Djokovic said the ball was hard to follow and Milos Raonic dismissed it as "Smurf clay".

Nadal lost to Fernando Verdasco in the round of 16, and Djokovic went out in the quarter-finals to Janko Tipsarevic, suggesting perhaps something was, in fact, wrong with the blue clay.

However, two players who have been around a bit, Roger Federer and Serena Williams, won the men's and women's titles.

Unless detractors can demonstrate some organic problems with blue clay - some significant issues with traction of bounce - perhaps everyone should learn to play on it.

The sport needs to be as viewer-friendly as possible. Players should recall that fans and sponsors pay the rent. If games on blue surfaces are easier to watch, that is a good thing.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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