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Nadal & Djokovic give Santana the blues

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Jonathan Overend | 10:40 UK time, Friday, 11 May 2012

What on earth was Manolo Santana thinking?

Here was the Madrid Open tournament director sitting in the front row of the press conference room, stony faced and unnmoved, listening to his number one seed launch into a measured, yet scathing attack on the controversial new blue clay courts.

The process involved in turning the clay blue from its traditional red has made the court feel much slicker.

Novak Djokovic, fresh from a close win over Stanislas Wawrinka and warming to his theme of the week, claimed the winner of the tournament is likely to be the player who doesn't get hurt. He then confirmed that he wouldn't return next year unless the surface reverted to traditional clay.

Madrid Open

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have both threatened to avoid next year's Madrid Open if the blue surface remains. Photo: Getty

About two hours earlier, an evidently angrier Rafa Nadal had said much the same. It would be like Cincinatti suddenly playing on grass in the build up to the hard-court US Open, he opined.

"The tournament and the ATP can do what they like," he said after his shock defeat to Fernando Verdasco, "but next year there will be one less tournament in my calendar."

Maybe not shocking after a week of negative comments, but an unpalatable thought for Santana and his boss, Madrid owner and promoter Ion Tiriac. Tournament directors spend the year buttering up their star attractions and, while they knew the blue clay would split opinion, they didn't think it would be this serious.

What started as a bit of promotional fun (remember Madrid brought in models for ball girls a few years back, so they have a taste for the eye-catching here) with the aim of assisting spectators and TV viewers to better spot the yellow ball, has escalated into a major row and potentially a huge problem for the men's governing body, the ATP.

New ATP chief executive Brad Drewett is scheduled to attend the tournament on Friday along with his predecessors Adam Helfant, Etienne De Villiers and Mark Miles. If ever an issue highlights the conflict of interest in the make-up of the ATP - half owned and run by the players, half by the tournaments - it is this one.

Back one of his leading events or protect the grumpy players? If Madrid don't back down, on which side will Drewett fall?

Tiriac and Santana must hope they get a bit of much-needed backing over the next few days.

Tiriac, the enthusiastically leftfield Romanian, hasn't got much wrong during his career as player, manager, politician, businessman and promoter. His innovations don't appeal to everyone but at least he isn't afraid to push boundaries. He just wants to sell the sport of tennis and shouldn't be criticised for that.

Santana, it should be remembered, won Wimbledon in 1966. A Spaniard winning Wimbledon? Widely believed to have coined the phrase "grass is for cows", Santana didn't like it but he conquered it.

"If I managed that", he must have thought this week, "surely Rafa and Nole can master my blue clay?!"

The problem is two fold. First, the court is definitely slippier than last year. At least Santana has admitted this.

Players are struggling with their grip underfoot, recovering from wide positions and the essential technique of the clay-court slide up the court. It doesn't look great. Unofficial spokesman of the tennis underclass, Ukrainian Sergei Stakhovsky, tweeted his belief that it's now the worst court on the ATP Tour.

The second problem is in the players' minds. Those who were against the idea of blue clay from that start are now - surprise, surprise - still against it, and therefore struggling with it. Enjoying it more, it appears, are Alex Dolgopolov, the unconventional Ukrainian who has played some delightful stuff, and Roger Federer who breezed past Richard Gasquet in 58 minutes.

But they play with more air under their feet, lighter around the court. It is the more punishing, heavier style - favoured by Nadal and Djokovic - which appears to have been penalised by this change.

That's why, to be honest, Nadal and Djokovic sounded a bit precious yesterday. Saying they won't come back unless conditions change back to being more in their favour made them sound like spoilsports in the street who want everything their way.

This was not, I'm sure, their intention. Their views will undoubtedly be listened to and Madrid may have to acknowledge that their gamble hasn't worked because when Nadal and Djokovic speak up, the tennis world tends to listen.

I'm just curious to know what would happen if, for example, Dolgopolov wins his first Masters with an exemplary week of floating, attacking tennis - adapting brilliantly to the change of conditions? Will anyone listen to him or, indeed, care?

Regardless of the rights or wrongs, the playing field here in Madrid is suddenly a more level one - ice-rink-level, you could say, and most certainly blue.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Tiriac clearly put this in to favour his boss Federer. Change for changes sake is no change at all.

  • Comment number 2.

    alphafootballfan - Why would he need to 'favour' someone who was prominent on the previous surface as well? And why would he want to sabotage the chances of one of Spain's premier sportsmen in Spain? Stop clutching at straws - this was changed for one reason and one reason only, greed. The same reason the FA Cup final was moved forward to a league day and had the kick-off moved back to 5.15. Prioritising television over the welfare of the players/fans is unfortunately a disease that is rife in sport.

    This was a stupid move that could have been totally avoided if they'd just changed the colour of the BALL. How much easier and safer would that have been? And it would have had the exact same effect.

  • Comment number 3.

    Did Muzz know something everyone else didn't?

  • Comment number 4.

    @alphafootballfan - let me guess a Nadal fan? Why make such a statement about Federer? Nadal or Djokovic didn't and why would they. They may not be happy with the courts and they are entitled to express their opinion but to suggest the organisers introduced this new court to favour Federer is asinine simply because he hasn't complained. Perhaps Federer is also not happy with the court - he did struggle in his opening match. Granted he breezed past Gasquet but does that not just mean he adapted his game to the new conditions following his opening match. Unfortunately, Nadal or Djokovic were not able to do this. Maybe if they had more matches on the court they would have adapted as well. Every player that has entered the tournament is faced with the same courts.

  • Comment number 5.

    They should just apologise to the players, admit they made a mistake and change it back for next year.

  • Comment number 6.

    I'm sorry, but to me it looks like Rafa is having a bit of a strop because he lost. It may not be the best surface as a lot of players aren't happy about it but as Del Potro said a couple of days ago, both players on the court are in the same position.

    A sense of entitlement is not pretty.

  • Comment number 7.

    How did Tiriac dare to remove the iron-oxide from natural clay and paint it blue? He must be getting old. Perhaps he should paint his moustache pink, wear orange socks and mauve shoes in order to get attention, or better still, start living in space where the sky is black.

  • Comment number 8.

    I completely agree with Perpetual Sigh. While I believe that you have to change it up to make a tournament unique, many fans are more likely to watch a tournament to see their favourite players/the best players play, rather than for the innovations that have been brought in (although models for ball-girls might be the exception...). If the blue clay remains next year, I would expect a considerable drop in viewers as Rafa and Nole would be expected to skip Madrid (especially if they are still the top 2 in the world this time next year, preferably with Rafa as No 1).

  • Comment number 9.

    Agree with spacon08 and 18lovexox. Being taken seriously as a top player in the men's game right now means you must be outstandingly strong, quick and fit. Surely you must be versatile aswell?

    Nadal is too good an athlete and if anything, too hard-working to not be adaptable. All of the top 4 right now are exemplary because apart from remaining doubts over Murray's (red) clay court abilities, it is assumed that at all the slams, they will reach the semis, and each will amass several other ATP tournaments along the way on ALL surfaces, because they adapt their game for the wind, the heat/humidity and sun every time they are out on court.

    Nadal once was below-standard on the hard courts. Even once he began playing well in all the slams, he was probably outside most peoples' lists of top 10 current hard court players. But he turned that around.

    Finding 'ideal' conditions to play tennis is rare, but the top players are the ones who make the most out of a bad situation, if he just strops now then well.......lesser tennis players who ARE prepared to adapt will profit.

  • Comment number 10.

    Here is a thought, if they are complaining about court being much slicker and not good for the middle of the clay season, why don't they bring the 2013 French a couple of weeks earlier and then play Madrid 2013 before Queens? A nice natural progression?

  • Comment number 11.

    If the top 2 players in the world are complaining something should be done , as simple as that.

    http://playwithflair.com/2012/03/19/a-little-prediction/

  • Comment number 12.

    All LAWN tennis should be on grass!!!

  • Comment number 13.

    In an era where all changes to the game have favored the baseliner, change of grass at Wimbledon, slower courts elsewhere, racquet and string technology that make it easier to thump the ball back and reduce net play, it is the height of cheek for these pampered baseliners to whine... Nadal's career record has been greatly inflated by the the fact that he has played in an era where all changes have suited his game. Had Nadal been forced to play in the 1990's he would never have got close to a Wimbledon title or a U.S. Open one either. I wish there were more faster courts and slipperier conditions on the circuit that would bring net play back and would show the limitations of these pampered players

  • Comment number 14.

    I think most of you miss the point except MrPink99. The surface is an issue, but would not be as big an issue if this tournament was the first in the Clay Court season. Because Madrid comes right before the French Open then it is essentially a critical piece of preparation. Although Federer has not complained this represents the first of two tournaments as his only major preparations. Why oh why would you want such bad preparation on a surface that is so different to the French Open. Its just bad decision making especially when the players were last on the priority list. As they say why fix it if it ain't broke?

  • Comment number 15.

    Nadal has been virtually unbeatable on clay ever since he turned professional, at the start it was only the really proper claycourters who could beat him. Verdasco doesn't fall into that category and Nadal has become comfortably the greatest claycourter ever. What Madrid have done here is create a surface that quite clearly isn't clay because, if it was, Verdasco would have been thrashed by a similar scoreline to that in Barcelona a few weeks back. Whether Djokovic and Nadal are being favoured as the best two players in the world is irrelevant, Madrid have created a surface that needs a new name and it's ridiculous that the atp have allowed such a change in the tournament immediately before the French Open. Murray has done really well in missing it.

  • Comment number 16.

    One thing's for sure, Andy Murray will be having a good giggle right now! While his rivals are getting more and more upset, he's having the best preparation for the French Open (hopefully he can survive the first three rounds!)

  • Comment number 17.

    Just give me Roland Garros!!!

  • Comment number 18.

    Surely the point Nadal was making was that as a warmup to Roland Garros you need a surface similar to that they expect to play on in the next few weeks. It's not that he was beaten on a unfamiliar surface, it's that he entered the Madrid open as a way to get into shape for the clay-court Major in France. If he's not going to get any useful practice because the court reacts and plays differently then he would be better off playing a smaller tournament where the courts are more similar to those at RG. If you read the whole statement ("like playing on grass in Cincinatti") rather than just the "I don't like the blue clay" bit, this becomes obvious.

    The way I see it, the players who have complained have no issue with the change of surface per se, it's just that as a warmup to a Major tournament it's pointless. If Roland Garros were to say they planned to use the blue clay next year, you could be sure that these boys would return to Madrid with the current courts.

    This interpretation seems to have been glossed over in the comments, and to a lesser extent the article itself, but simple saying "the players have a fair point" would make for a very dull piece I suppose...

  • Comment number 19.

    What Rafa says is right to a certain extent, this clearly isn't good preparation for the French in any way. Andy is certainly lucky that he's missed this one!

    It is however nice from a fan perspective to see a tournament moving away from the current trend of slower and slower tennis courts promoting long baseline rallies. Adding more variety to the surfaces the players have to play on could lead to a more diverse spread of winners across the course of the season and lessen the dominance of the "top players" in every tournament they play (apart from perhaps Federer, he seems to be the best at adapting).

    Maybe it would be better to have tournaments on alternative surfaces in the period after the US Open. That way it would not affect preparations for Slams and would add to viewer interest in my opinion.

  • Comment number 20.

    I think the blue clay isn't an issue, though maybe being before French is, I'd like to see more variation in the courts across all the grand slams and all the tournaments. Why make french open faster and Wimbledon slower, the reason that they are such an attractive proposition is that they are different and need different skills to succeed on them. Notyhing against nadal whi is a superb player, but has he really improved so much on grass, or has he been helped by the change of conditions. Baseline rallies on clay, fine but on grass, I'd love to see more serve and volley skills.
    Anyway, why not have different speed clay/hardcourts/grass players should be good enough to adapt.

  • Comment number 21.

    After looking at highlights on YouTube I must say it does look rather hard to play on. I play tennis every week (always on hard courts) and sometimes I even find them slippery, I don't know how to play on clay at all.

    Verdasco played very well against Nadal, let's not forget that. Not just the courts.

  • Comment number 22.

    TJLM: I don't think Verdasco really played well apart from the final few games of the match when he was excellent. He had the yips on his serve (think he did 4 doubles in a row in the 2nd set) and was mentally gone at the start of the 3rd.

    Rafa had an absolute shocker.

  • Comment number 23.

    It's the same for both players.

    A player who can only play on top-quality surface with uniform bounce, etc., can never be described as the 'best' in his field.

    Crybaby Nadal wants to go off in a huff? Good riddance.

  • Comment number 24.

    Nadal has no excuse to lose a 5-2 lead in the third, though.

  • Comment number 25.

    The Olympic hockey stadium has a blue pitch, despite the fact that they normally play on red, they did this for the sake of the fans and to try and improve the standing of the sport. The players are happy as they see this argument. Yes Tennis is a more popular sport and there is more money in it BUT it seems to me that top tennis players seem to be more interested in themselves, don't want to change anything that is a disadvantage to them, even if it is and advantage to their fans, where ultimately their pay comes from.

    And I can see the organisers changing back to red to please the top 2!

  • Comment number 26.

    I agree that the Madrid Masters should aim to ensure its court is as much like Roland Garros as possible, in order to ensure effective pre-Slam preparation. Playing on a surface that plays entirely different is not the way to prepare for such a large tournament, and this is just Madrid wanting some headlines for itself more than anything else. If Nadal and others choose to prepare elsewhere, then Madrid may just lose its Masters 1000 status.

  • Comment number 27.

    Tennisdoug: true, Rafa definitely didn't play to his full ability. I think Nadal more lost the match than Verdasco won it, and yes he did double 4 in a row when 40-0 up. He won that game on advantage though. To come back from 5-2 down against Nadal on clay, even though he may not be at his best, is still an excellent feat.

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    Sorry, but I guess many of you didn't see the match. Rafa was beaten, fair and square. Verdasco played loose and without fear at the end of the match, while Nadal didn't, simple as that. On the issue of the new clay, surely this effects everyone- not just certian players. Everyone has had to adjust to the new conditions, and to change the entire tournament next year just because someone was a slightly sore loser would be ridiculous.

    On a related subject, I would really like more information on Roland Garros being shown on itv. As a huge tennis fan (with only freeview viewing) I have to pay extra to see the sport live, mosty over the internat. For the one month where tennis is actually shown on British tv, unlike other sports shown all year round, I really don't want it ruined by adverts.

  • Comment number 30.

    The players should be wearing roller blades not pumps. Spending more effort trying to stay upright than playing shots.

  • Comment number 31.

    As to the timing of the event - just before the French - yes Rafa has a point there. Like Basle, Queens Eastbourne - you wouldn't expect them to be played on hard courts.

    But - over the years a lot of concessions have been made to the traditional clay court players and they have had it all their own way. Wimbledon slowed down to accomodate them - didn't help the serve / volleyers at the time they didn't complain or refuse to play - and hard courts have been adapted to be generally slower. I don't think its good for tennis to have the playing surfaces all converging to standard that basically suits a more defensive style of play because then it leads to less and less variety in shot and tactics and to my mind becomes less interesting and challenging.

    Federer chooses to try to serve and volley more in Madrid. Also he is lighter on his feet so is less vulnerable to slicker conditions. So I agree with other comments that great players, to be worthy of the accolade, should be able to adapt to any surface and if some players can do it, it shows its possible and others should be challenged to step up and vary their game.

  • Comment number 32.

    If the surface is so terrible and prevented Rafa from playing, why did he get up 2 breaks in the 3rd set? Spoiled little boy.

    And shame on the ATP for cutting out most of his press conference on their web site, leaving OUT the key comments.

  • Comment number 33.

    Are the players complaining all out of self-interest? I am lost on what big picture the players may have in mind... OK, it is not a traditional clay, so what, each tournament is different, and that is good to watch. Blue Clay, much easier for TV audience. It is not good for prep. for Grand Slam, same for all players.

    Good or bad for the blue clay, it depends on the perspective. This brings freshness to a tournament. If there has been nothing like this happening, probably a lot of the tournament is still on grass, which breed a totally different generation of champions.

    If the top players do not play, would the other remaining players in the field mind? Looking at how many masters have been won by just a few, anyone after the top 4 do not mind the top 2 not playing ,giving them more chance to win a master. If it goes down to the admission of the tournament, then it is something for the tournament director to decide.

    It may not be the intent of the top players, but now they sound like they are just selfish and think of their own self interest. That is not good.

  • Comment number 34.

    For those who think the Big Blue Clay is the problem - remember that Verdasco took Nadal to 3 tie breaks in their match in Cincinnati last year, on hard court. Was that the fault of the surface too?

  • Comment number 35.

    Em: and we must remember that CLASSIC match at the Australian Open between Rafa and Verdasco. He is definately capable of beating the best players at times.

    Good luck to Roger. Get that 2nd seeding for the French and slay them all at Wimbledon. The Maestro is back.

  • Comment number 36.

    To reiterate (as my comment was probably removed due to containing a word referring to a certain bi-product of digestion I used to describe the playing surface) the blue clay is a serious risk to tennis players' health. If that is not important then what is? People talking about 'self interest' maybe think watching people break bones and damage ligaments is fun, I certainly don't. I want these players to be healthy and to continue to provide us with excietement. If you want to completely ignore the fact that all of a sudden the Madrid tournament is 0 help for preparing for the French Open, so be it. The fact is people have to risk their health to defend/win points.

  • Comment number 37.

    @32 because Verdasco is a mental midget and Nadal owns him? Verdasco is a joke to most knowledgeable tennis fans because he is psychologically one of the weakest players on tour. This is all the more frustrating because he clearly has talent and weapons, alas the game requires a strong psyche.

  • Comment number 38.

    It may not have been the best surface but you cannot be suprised that the colour of the clay was changed. I've watched many clay court matches while trying to squint and see where the ball is as the colour clash is just horrible. I can understand Nadal and Djokovic's frustrations; however, did you hear Federer complain when the Wimbledon grass was slowed down and paved the way for the baseline players? Nadal did not spare a thought for Verdasco who was playing on exactly the same surface as him and did not moan.

  • Comment number 39.

    Are people accusing Nadal of being a poor sport even thinking their comment through? Leaving aside the fact that Rafa is noted for his exceptional good grace when he loses matches, Djokovic is saying the exact same things and he WON his match.

  • Comment number 40.

    This tournament is probably the fairest one I have ever seen. Each person was given an opportunity to display skills in an even setting. No one had access to the blue clay ahead of time so adaptability and skill were the major factors affecting the outcome of the tournament. Maybe more tournaments should consider creating a more even playing field for all the players.

  • Comment number 41.

    @Perpetual Sigh changing the ball would have solved half the problem they were trying to deal whit. Blue and yellow are universally used as contrasting colours that work well together. They are used regularly in teaching especially with dyslexic students. So changing the ball colour would have meant the orangey brown background was still there.

  • Comment number 42.

    infernalis wrote:
    "The Olympic hockey stadium has a blue pitch, despite the fact that they normally play on red, they did this for the sake of the fans and to try and improve the standing of the sport."

    The hockey pitch is simply a change in colour. The surface is exactly the same material with the same properties.

    None of the tennis players are objecting about the colour blue. They are objecting about the fact that the process of changing the colour has completely changed the properties of the surface.

  • Comment number 43.

    I think the French Open finishes 2 or 3 weeks before Wimbledon. So maybe they need to change the French Open to grass as a build up to Wimbledon. Go Feds although I love Rafa as well. I'm sure Rafa will win the French Open but if he doesn't... oh hang on he has won Wimbledon twice with only a few weeks preparation and the clay season goes on for months beforehand.

  • Comment number 44.

    If you change the ball colour, people will moan that they can't see it as well. Even if its 100% proven the new colour is easier to see, reduces glare, etc etc etc. Simple fact is, if you are used to a yellow ball, a purple one won't work so well. There is also the legacy of the ball, always being that yellow.

    Now what could they do instead? Surely the spectators in the arena are going to struggle to see the ball being hurtled at 80mph each return. But they are having fun being there.

    What if they were to just use a special camera, or the equivalent of chroma-key? As long as they ask players not to wear clay-red, they can isolate that spread of colours, and adjust it for playback on television. You could just do it for the colour of the ball, whatever you prefer. Personally i think changing the colour of the surface makes as much sense as changing Man Utd's kit to light blue. That colour is its identity. When i flicked through the sports channels, i thought it was just another tennis event, nothing special.

    If they are concerned with viewing ease, they should tackle the real problems. Shoot the thing in 3D - granted not everyone has a 3D TV, but its there for the picking.

    The main thing i find with watching tennis, is the frame rate. If a 7cm ball is travelling 21m at 130mph, each frame recorded by the camera will show the ball has moved 2m (or so). That is what makes things hard to see. Instead of 24fps, go to 60, push up and up.
    Before all you internet warriors kick up a fuss saying its not available, surely if one of the biggest tennis events is pushing for it, they will start to consider it. Shooting in HD does nothing, you simply have 18 pixels instead of 4 pixels showing a ball travelling 2m each frame.

  • Comment number 45.

    Preparing for a tennis tournament is like preparing for a test for which the answers have already been given. You show up on test day with your memory and your pencil. There is nothing new, nothing surprising, just the mundane activity of regurgitating what you studied. But now, what if you didn't have all the answers ahead of time? Then you have to figure things out on the test for yourself. How to get from points A to B. A hassle for you maybe, but major excitement for the teacher, your spectator. That teacher wants to see you critically think your way through problems. Wants to see how you adapt to the unknown. Can you apply yourself? So in terms of the blue clay, I would like to see players applying themselves in ways that make their greatness shine through. No more feeling sorry for yourself because you are out of your comfort zone, learn to be great mentally as well. Every player deserves a fighting chance. Let's equalize the probabilities for all.

  • Comment number 46.

    Personally I think there is a need for more variation between the surfaces. The slams appear to be more uniform than ever with Wimbledon and the US surely as slow as they have ever been. I think this is one of the reasons the top 3 have been able to dominate.
    Having said that, I have two issues with the clay in Madrid:
    1. We are 3 weeks from the french open and the players should be playing on a similar surface to what they have at Roland Garros.
    2. The clay seems to be dangerous - players are slipping and sliding all over the place - it is a wonder nobody has got injured.
    So, more variation is required but only at considered times.

  • Comment number 47.

    @ 13

    I totally and utterly agree with you, everything in today's game has been catered for Rafa's ugly and quite frankly boring style of play - which is to hack the ball as high as he possibly can, well with all that spin he applies on the ball he may as well hack it. They slowed the grass courts down to make it more exciting for television viewers, courtside spectators and baseliners alike. The grass courts are so slow and get slower each year that they play more and more like clay courts and that is the only reason why Rafa has won Wimbledon. I personally truly miss the swashbuckling days of classic serve-and-volley tennis, which is "true" grass court tennis is you ask me!

    And now they have changed the courts the clay courts in Madrid to make it more visibly exciting for television viewers and courtside spectators but it now seems that the change does not suit baseliners - the ugly, boring and the anti-flair style of the game, the players who choose to hack the ball from the baseline. So these blue clay courts apparently play slicker and faster and their boringly slow red counterparts and actually turnout to be more exciting!

  • Comment number 48.

    The traits of a TRUE and GENUINE Champion is to adjust to whatever surface u r playin and prove yourself - Rog had to adapt when they slowed down the grass courts for players like Rafa - Rog did not spit his dummy out and say "it's not fair I am not playing anymore". What Nadal is, is he is just ungracious and ungrateful excuse of a "champion". If Rafa was "SO" good and a REAL Champion, he would just quit his moaning, let his tennis do the talking and have the ability to adjust and adapt to any surface and condition. It is the same for all the players and they do not threaten to quit or throw in the towel just because the surface or condition isn't catered to their game. A true champion or quality player will be able to come up with a plan or strategy on how to succeed on that surface or that condition. It's called tactical flair. It's also called having a brain. The only tactic Rafa seems to have is to moan. So he obviously has no flair (well his style of play his hardly flair, it's all hack and hope with him) and he clearly has no brains! Well done Fernando - you truly deserved it. Rafa deserves nothing for his moaning!

  • Comment number 49.

    Rafa is a proper moaning idiot smurf. Was the blue clay not good enough when u smashed davydenko. One minute he complains that his knee hurts and may not be able to continue spending forever on a medical timeout and the next running like a headless chicken and winning that match. One minute he wins on blue clay and the next he loses and says I'm not playing anymore. Rafas best tactical ploy relies heavily on gamesmanship what with his constant time wasting - apparently unnecessary medical timeouts, spending more than the legal time limit between points, sorting out his water bottles even after 'time' is called. Rafa is just an arrogant and pathetic sore loser who thinks the world and his wife revolves around him and should wait for him! Man I love da blue clay. I hope they keep in next year and save us from having to keep watching Rafa constantly relieving himself of his pants and shorts wedgies!

  • Comment number 50.

    Rafa proving what a pathetic loser he is! He loses just ONE match which happens to be his FIRST loss on a 'different' surface which is clay by the way, and he spits his dummy out and says 'it's not fair I like the red one mummy I am not playing here anymore until they change the colour'. Once again poor poor lame lame excuses from a supposed professional legend. King of Clay - I think not! King of RED Clay - yes! If a professional like him can't handle a 'different' surface albeit a different colour then you have to question his 'class' and 'professional attitude'! Don't hear Rog moaning "oh they cut the grass too short or made it too green I'm not playing wimbledon anymore'

  • Comment number 51.

    Nothing is good enough for Rafa, they changed the grass courts for his ugly style of play so he could win Wimbledon. They change the "colour" of his favourite surface, he doesn't have the ability to adapt and adjust to it. He loses and then moans and complains with poor and lame excuses. Gracious in defeat? I think not! Rafa showing his true unprofessional colours!

  • Comment number 52.

    It is sad that this whole issue has come to this. First things first, the ball is without doubt much clearer to see on blue clay and that makes a welcome change to the red, dare I say, mundane traditional clay. Innovation in any sport is good and I agree, Tiriac should not be criticised for pushing boundaries and looking to experiment with different elements to the tournament that are going to make it stand out. It is here where the problems lie. Nadal and Djokovic’s game are clearly not suited to this slippery surface, but other players’ styles are. Take for instance Berdych and Del Potro, they have both breezed through their matches and have we heard as vociferously from them? No. It is only because Nadal and Djokovic who have made such a fuss about it that the debacle is blown way out of proportion. I 100% agree that if someone like Dolgopolov was moaning and groaning we would hear very little about it and the whole issue would blow over in a matter of minutes. To threaten to, or promise, to boycott next year’s event is sour grapes and we’ve only had that said by the two at the top; surprise, surprise.
    Federer just gave an interview to Sky in which he said, ‘Yes,( he) doesn’t deny there are slight problems which can be improved with the courts, but in 1998-2000 time, (he) had to adapt from super-fast indoor hard courts to ultra-slow clay courts’. The changes this week have been experienced by EVERY player; some it will suit, others it won’t: tough. Why should the courts be tailored to the particular style in which Djokovic and Nadal play their game and not the style of others?

  • Comment number 53.

    @ 23

    Haha

    I totally totally agree with you!

  • Comment number 54.

    Somebody get Rafa a pair of football boots!

    I just don't get it, the players constantly slip and slide on the "red" clay as it allows them a better reach for those unreachables. In fact the players love it. The love slipping and sliding. The blue clay is no different. In fact they can slip n slide even more to their hearts content. It should allow them to get even more balls and shots that they cannot reach. The surface is still the same it is still clay. It's just a different colour.

    Players slip and slide on grass too, should they ban the grass too?

  • Comment number 55.

    @ 52

    I totally and utterly and completely agree with you too. They changed the grass courts to suit players like Nadal and Djokovic - the baseliners. Now they have changed some clay courts, well they are not really changed, they are still clay. It's just a different colour and it apparently suits serve-and-volleyers, net players and all-court players like Berdych and Federer. Federer did not moan and threaten to quit or boycott when they changed the grass courts. But Rafa is threatening to boycott because they have changed "his" clay courts. Rafa is a just an arrogant spoiled brat. A professional who is actually unprofessional in his attitude and manner towards his trade!

  • Comment number 56.

    Surely everyones playing on the same surface so everyone has the same advantage / disadvantage?

  • Comment number 57.

    One more thing. I have been reading comments here made by individuals who make the argument that it is not ideal preparation for the French Open, sentiments echoed by Nadal in particular. But my argument is this: Look at the preparation for Wimbledon. One or two weeks at best with most playing either Queen's or Halle. That's it. There us such a long run-up to the French Open starting in late February: Acapulco, Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. That is discounting Madrid and a handful of other 250 events. The quick turnaround from clay to grass begins immediately after the French Open. So are you telling me that Wimbledon should be played on clay as well since there is an alleged 'lack of preparation' in the run-up to Wimbledon? The surface at Monte Carlo was pretty bad this year: anyone who was watching will have noticed that Benneteau and Monaco had pretty nasty falls which forced both them to retire, thanks mainly to the poor court surface - so get that surface changed since it posses a risk to safety as well I presume...?

  • Comment number 58.

    @ 32

    You are so so right. Rafa's favourite tactic is just to make excuses. His other favourite tactics are moaning and complaining. I think they should change the grass courts back to their original form, their faster more natural form, the form that favoured the brave - the swashbuckling serve-and-volleyer, the swashbuckling net player, the all-court player. Yes they should change the grass courts back to their traditional form. And Rafa the traditionalist, who wants to change his clay back to well....clay. Do you think he would love to change the grass back to its traditional form? Sorry Rafa but you can't always have it your way!

  • Comment number 59.

    The change to produce a slicker surface with a more reliable bounce would have been welcome if it had been implemented properly, the organisers accept the courts were not laid properly.

    The top surface is so slippery that players are leaving recoverable shots rather than chasing them down. However the more intelligent players have adapted their games accordingly - it may not be ideal but it is playable.

    I would prefer to see much more variation in the surfaces, Wimbledon has been slowed down far too much and there was quite an irony seeing Federer playing serve & volley on the blue clay.

    The top two seeds are coming across a tad petulant, however valid their comments are, they could do with taking a leaf out of the Fed's book who managed to construct a reasoned if critical response to the surface, which was not solely based on his own interests.

  • Comment number 60.

    @ 57

    Again I agree with you. The grass court season is arguably the shortest season in the tennis calendar. The ironic thing is the best ever tournament is played on the least played on surface - grass. There are just a handful of preparation events prior to Wimbledon. The hard court season is the longest and boasts the longest of all preparation events in the US Open Series prior to its namesake the US Open. There are also many prep events prior to the French - the most boring and the least favoured of the slams - which is played on CLAY!

  • Comment number 61.

    @ 59

    "the more intelligent players have adapted their games accordingly"

    I guess this doesnt include Rafael Nadal then!

    Or Novak for that matter. Although I believe that Novak is a more intelligent player than Rafa.

  • Comment number 62.

    @ 46

    "The clay seems to be dangerous - players are slipping and sliding all over the place...."

    The colour makes absolutely no difference. Players slip and slide all over the place on the RED too. Maybe clay is just too dangerous full stop? Let's ask Rafa and his knees! Oh no wait, it's the very slipping and sliding that has allowed Rafa to reach those balls he would never reach like say (cough) on hard courts and so help him win all those slams simply by sliding!

    In fact players slip and slide on grass too. It's no more a hazard than tackling is to football. That's becoming more and more seemingly dangerous too!

    Maybe we should ban sport altogether!

  • Comment number 63.

    @HT-Hotspur Thanks. Just heard Federer and Ferrer comments in press conference which was of course about this topic. Federer: "It's hard to play on but it's what we do - adjust to what's thrown at us." Ferrer says: "Slippery but no excuses." When asked whether it is possible to play top class tennis on that court: "Yes" he said. Courtesy of 5Live Tennis tweets. So what message are we getting here? Not good enough for Nadal and Djokovic but more than acceptable say Federer and Ferrer. The issue does not come down to safety but to preference over the court and it is clear that such petulance displayed by Nadal and Djokovic is nothing to do with the former but everything to do with the latter and consequently their comments are completely out of turn.

  • Comment number 64.

    Isn't this slightly reminiscent of top football matches being played on artificial grass or astro-turf (a lot in Eastern Europe I think)? That didn't seem to go down too well with professionals from Western European leagues.

    The court does look awfully slippy from clips I've seen, a bit like how British green clay courts play when there isn't really enough clay on them! Sliding around oddly on cement. Djokovic and Nadal look uncomfortable, I imagine Fed is probably gliding as ever though.

  • Comment number 65.

    @ 64

    Yes Roger can glide. And Raf and Novak can only slide. It's a proven fact. He has the intelligence to adjust and adapt better to all surfaces. He's not all an all-court specialist for nothing! Actually they did say rather jokingly on Sky Sports tonight after Rog's victory over Ferrer that it's true Rog can glide. He could even walk on water, play on water! Haha

  • Comment number 66.

    Not good enough for Nadal and Djokovic but more than acceptable say Federer and Ferrer. The issue does not come down to safety but to preference over the court and it is clear that such petulance displayed by Nadal and Djokovic is nothing to do with the former but everything to do with the latter and consequently their comments are completely out of turn.

    ------------------------------------------------------

    I think it's more to do with their preparation for the French Open, they're clearly not pleased at playing on a surface that is not the same as red clay. I do admit that it is the same for both players, and you can say you'll deal with whatever is thrown at you etc, but imagine a scenario where you are sliding around and burning your muscles just to compensate for the blue clay. This is practicing improper technique which is clearly a bad thing and will actually affect your performance on Roland Garros.

    I'll give an arbitrary example, imagine you are Barcelona FC and you practise on a wet soggy pitch with lots of holes in it, you have to change your game to suit the pitch. Now imagine if they had to play on a smooth surface the following week in the Champions League final, their earlier preparation is clearly false cause they have been training the 'wrong things'. Not sure if anyone can follow, but I hope you know what I mean.... that's the thing that is making Nadal and Djokovic angry. Federer won't complain cause he doesn't really move that much anyway cause of his awesome footwork. To be honest, Djokovic and Nadal pretty much stopped caring about this tournament, it's no coincidence they're out so early.

  • Comment number 67.

    Firstly.

    Not sure what the fuss is about with blue being easier to see the ball. I actually find it harder to see. The small amount of TV coverage I get here in Japan, the images/matches I have watched...the blue looks too dark and the ball simply blends in with the tone of the dark too much. There needs to be more contrast. So the blue should be a lighter hue and the ball to have much more tone and contrast. I don't see any advantage with blue v red for my viewing.

    As for Nadal & Djoko's comments. Stephen Pollard in his post #63 says it all. Or rather what Fed and Ferrer have said.

    We are told endlessly about how Uncle Tony used to make Rafa play on poor quality courts to get tough. Where is this toughness now???

    The courts are now far too similar with very little variation. Wimbledon is a shadow of its former self being so much slower and not allowing a different style of tennis to dominate (that's the purpose of it, just as it clay!!)..even the indoor courts are slowing down....why is this??? It comes as no surprise that the style of play of Rafa is being adopted by many and the 1 dimensional players are starting to make progress again. Bamm down a big serve, then a forehand cross court or inside-out and point over.

    More variety is good for the sport. If a clay "master" cannot adjust to a different type of clay, begs the most obvious question...

  • Comment number 68.

    I forgot to add.

    I personally found this years Aussie Open final between Djoko and Rafa boring. It became a war of attrition...who was the fittest. Whilst this plays a major part of sport..the last 2 sets, well 3 if I'm honest were simply bam bam bam..run from one side to the other quicker than your opponent and very little flair or variation in shot making. Some hail the match as one of the best ever...why?

    An epic, in that sense is clearly the Isner v Hamut.

    But looking at say Fed V Roddick at wimbledon several years ago. Roddick played his heart out. He may be 1-dimensional at times, but he really made Fed work for the title. It wasn't about fitness (although in the end it took its toll), it was the shear shot making and variations displayed by both players. I saw very little of this in the Rafa v Djoko in the 2012 Aussie open final. Just grunt and endless running, breath taking as it was...didn't float my boat!

    Thus more variety please is good for the sport and plays to different strengths and weaknesses, as it should do.

  • Comment number 69.

    Hahah..after my post in #67. Just watching the rerun of yesterdays JDP v Dolg match (we only get finals live here!). Bright sunshine and day time too...yes, it is easier to see the ball than on red clay. Not seen a match in such bright light previously, hence i couldn't see much difference.

  • Comment number 70.

    @ 67

    You talk of 1-dimensional players. And that is exactly what Rafa is - a 1 dimensional player! And so is his style which is hack n hope. And all the courts have been catered for this 1 dimensional style of play - the baseliner! The wam bam thank you mam method you talk about is actually 2 dimensional. First you have to play a serve with a certain degree of accuracy, power and placement and secondly you have to run to the net and a place a volley into the court where the other player is not! Plus the majority of wam bam thank you mam players can mix it up with the best baseliners and out pace them at the back of the court. They also have the ability to have and add a touch of flair and finesse to their game. Exhibit A - John McEnroe, Peter Sampras, Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker, Roger Federer, Tim Henman - all true flair and silky smooth stylish players that didn't just hack the ball with as much topspin as they possible could. They could drive the ball and slice the ball with perfection managing to combine perfect pace, placement and length on the ball. Players who just keep the ball in play constantly rallying and waiting for the other player to make the mistake is hardly swashbuckling, brave, daring and adventurous play. The baseline approach is all about defensive play. The serve and volley/net play approach is about both offensive and defensive play. Now you tell me that is 1 dimensional!

  • Comment number 71.

    @ 67 & 68

    I too agree with you. All this baseline-style of tennis is all about who can hit the more shots, who can out-run the other and who will make the first mistake - which for me is really 1-dimensional. I prefer the serve-and-volley/net play-style and all-court style of tennis which is all about how you hit the shots, rather than how many shots you hit. It's all about shot-making and shot-selection: you choose when to hit a backhand/forehand slice, backhand/forehand drive. It doesn't always have to be about how much spin you can put in the ball and it's not all waiting for the other player to make a mistake. It's about forcing the error from the other player with attacking and fearless offensive flair and not necessarily mundane but ever hopeful and one dimensional defensive inelegance!

  • Comment number 72.

    "It is the more punishing, heavier style - favoured by Nadal and Djokovic - which appears to have been penalised by this change.

    That's why, to be honest, Nadal and Djokovic sounded a bit precious yesterday. Saying they won't come back unless conditions change back to being more in their favour made them sound like spoilsports in the street who want everything their way."

    I love it Rafa and Novak are nothing but fairy elephants around the tennis court because there footwork adopts a more punishing heavier style! It is so true both lack the grace and the elegance of flair - well Rafa more so than Novak. I certainly appreciate Novak's shotmaking and shot selecting ability more than Rafa's hack n hope approach to the game. At least Novak plays the ball with a clean strike and still manages to find perfect length, pace and placement on the ball, at least he can blast opponents off the court whereas Rafa tries to spin people off the court!

  • Comment number 73.

    Rafa a spoiltbrat? Nah, never! And here I was thinking he was always gracious in defeat! Nah, do have a laugh - instead of congratulating the better and more deserving player, he goes off in a sulk and threatens to never play that event again and demands they change it back for him and the way he likes it!

    Rafa is a player who apparently trains and practice to adapt and adjust his style to surfaces and conditions. So he has absolutely NO excuse to not be able to adapt to the blue clay - which IS CLAY!!!!!! But the thing is all he can come up with is excuse after excuse after excuse.

    Rafa is a joke. Hardly an ambassador to the sport. How he has so many admirers is beyond me. And all the Roger haters have the cheek to call him arrogant and a spoiltbrat. They could be further from the truth. They need to look into their mirror which is Rafa. Roger NEVER threatened to "quit" or "boycott" an event because the conditions didn't suit "him". You can't blame Roger for the simple fact that he is highly professional and has the "professional ability" to adapt and adjust his game to any surface or condition. You can't blame Rog because quite simply he is a natural player and Rafa is not. Roger never wastes time on court, he never makes poor, pathetic and lame excuses. He has accepted that all the court surfaces even his own favourite - grass has been tampered to suit his majesty the king of clay - Rafa - and he don't complain and moan about, well he don't keep going on about it.

    Roger is the TRUE LEGEND, the TRUE PROFESSIONAL of this beautiful sport which is tennis. So Roger haters don't blame him because he plays pretty tennis and Rafa your hero plays ugly tennis!

  • Comment number 74.

    * They couldn't be further from the truth!

  • Comment number 75.

    @ 52

    "dare I say mundane traditional clay"

    Love it. So funny. And it is clay that made for the traditionally mundane style of Rafa. Who is King of the Traditionally Mundane. There's a title he has truly earned and most befitting to his overall approach to the game!

  • Comment number 76.

    *And it is clay that is made for the traditionally mundane style (and dare I say character) of Rafael Nadal.

  • Comment number 77.

    @ 11, my thoughts exactly, neither are known as whingers so when both complain this bitterly the powers to be need to listen, also remember as well as being ranked no 2 in the world Rafa is maybe the greatest clay court player of all time, if he says the surface is rubbish then guess what ? it is.

  • Comment number 78.

    I must admit that my impressions of Novak have become somewhat negative. Whilst, I absolutely love the fact that Novak has proven to be the great arch-nemesis and only real positive challenger and successor of crushing the empire of the mind-numblingly boring dominance that an ever unappreciating and ever ungrateful and ungrateful - and in fact disrespectful - Rafael Nadal has managed to impose on the beauty of the game that is tennis with his one dimensional inelegant, traditionally mundane, contrived and quite frankly ugly style of play, I also absolutely loathe the fact that Novak has quite simply chosen to lower himself to the unprofessional attitudes and standards of the the very man whose empire he managed to undermine and so wonderfully crush.

    Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love and admire the man and player that is Novak just as I love and admire Roger but in equal measure loathe and Rafa.

    Novak is a loveable character who rightly lives and measures up to his nickname "The Djoker". What with his incredibly comical impressions of fellow professionals, Novak loves a laugh. He is real character, a real personality, a true celebrity of the game. Indeed he is a worthy role model for today's youngsters who aspire to become professionals or amateurs in sport.

    Unfortunately, however, it has become apparent that Novak also likes to moan and complain and threaten to "quit" or "boycott" an event because the conditions do not suit him and he is unable to adapt his style and gameplan to the conditions. He has chosen to follow Rafa's suit of childish and spoiltbrat-like excuses and incessant complaining.

    I do not expect this attitude from Novak. Especially as he presents an image, much like Roger whose attitude always remains exemplary unlike Rafa, opposite to Rafa and that is an image that is far from arrogant.

    I am afraid that I am certainly disappointed with Novak. But I still love him!

  • Comment number 79.

    I must admit that my impressions of Novak have become somewhat negative. Whilst, I absolutely love the fact that Novak has proven to be the great arch-nemesis and only real positive challenger and successor of crushing the empire of the mind-numblingly boring dominance that an ever unappreciating and an ever ungrateful and ungraceful - and in fact disrespectful - Rafael Nadal has managed to impose on the beauty of the game that is tennis with his one dimensional inelegant, traditionally mundane, contrived and quite frankly ugly style of play, I also absolutely loathe the fact that Novak has quite simply chosen to lower himself to the unprofessional attitudes and standards of the very man whose empire he managed to undermine and so wonderfully crush.

    Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love and admire the man and player that is Novak just as I love and admire Roger but in equal measure loathe Rafa.

    Novak is a loveable character who rightly lives and measures up to his nickname "The Djoker". What with his incredibly comical impressions of fellow professionals, Novak loves a laugh. He is real character, a real personality, a true celebrity of the game. Indeed he is a worthy role model for today's youngsters who aspire to become professionals or amateurs in sport.

    Unfortunately, however, it has become apparent that Novak also likes to moan and complain and threaten to "quit" or "boycott" an event because the conditions do not suit him and he is unable to adapt his style and gameplan to the conditions. He has chosen to follow Rafa's suit of childish and spoiltbrat-like excuses and incessant complaining.

    I do not expect this attitude from Novak. Especially as he presents an image, much like Roger whose attitude always remains exemplary unlike Rafa, he presents an image opposite to Rafa and that is an image that is far from arrogant and demanding.

    I am afraid that I am certainly disappointed with Novak. But I still love him!

  • Comment number 80.

    HT-Hotspur, you my new hero!!!

    I love tennis and agree with all you say.

    My main peeves:
    1. Moon balling moaners
    2. Time wasting (I am a tennis fanatic, but can not watch for 6 hours - Life calls!!!!)
    3. Shrieking female players (this needs to be sorted - I was thinking of a protest walk out off centre court at Wimbledon by all if Maria plays Victoria!!).
    4. Players who show negative petulant body language on court, and continually blame and look to their boxes for help, instead of solving problems themselves.

    I respect Novak mostly for what he did to rafa last year, though agree he is a phenomenal athlete and shot maker, though has evidently become too big for his boots!!

    Rafa is to be respected but his legacy is heavily weighted by favourable conditions and match ups. It is my eternal frustration that his head to head v roger is inflated by rogers consistency - roger throughout has got to the finals even when not playing well and on unfavourable surfaces, but rafa tended to lose before roger could give him a hiding ie indoor and previously at us open and Wimbledon. The fact that so many of their matchups were on clay (and rafa is the clay GOAT) meant rafa did get into his head for big matches.

    It is true that the blue clay is a bit slippery, but it also true many have managed to master it - even the huge raonic moved quite well. My fear is that the bleating of the top 2 (though fed could be 2 soon) will lead to changes. Feds comments, like his demeanour on court, have been mature and measured( though not particularly positive too). He should be listened to.

  • Comment number 81.

    Some extraordinary comments on this blog.

    Let's be clear - Rafa and Novak were complaining about this surface prior to Rafa's loss, and Novak hasn't lost yet. So, referring to these comments as bad sportsmanship and being a sore loser is obviously missing the point. Novak's comment that he probably only hit four actual shots in a match (that he won) demonstrates the real issue, which is that he is struggling to maintain balance. The schedule is punishing enough on the top players, without adding dangerous conditions into the mix for what is, in essence, a very minor gain for outside parties.

    I wonder how many commenters would have watched the match between Nadal and Murray three years back at Indian Wells. Murray came into the match in excellent form (good enough to win the next Masters event in Miami), and I had high hopes that he would win - he was, frankly, a superior hard court player at the time. The match was blighted by heavy wind, and Murray's precise game was blown away by Nadal hitting well inside the lines with heavy spin. Was that a case of Nadal being better at adapting to the conditions? Or just a poor spectacle and a poor test of the skills that had brought both players to the party? Clearly the latter, in my opinion.

    Vaunting the play of Dolgopolov is all well and good, but bear in mind that this is a player who cannot hold a candle to Nadal and Djoko under normal conditions. Verdasco - who is a player I like to watch when on form - also knows that he is a vastly inferior player to Nadal in any normal match. Personally, I want to watch a sport where the best players can go for their shots and hit the lines. Not a sport where those same players are struggling to stand up due to the conditions, and end up beaten by worse players. If that's what you want, you might as well argue that rain breaks are an unnecessary imposition on the spectators and players should adapt to the conditions they face.

  • Comment number 82.

    I can only think of one thing to say to Messers Nadal And Djokovic and that is Wha,Wha Wha Wha stop crying and get on with playing that is what you are paid to do. Learn and adapt like all good players do you can not have it all your own way.

  • Comment number 83.

    They should keep the different colours for the hard courts (where it looks cool); blue clay is a bit like purple grass ... just wrong and aethsetically displeasing.

    No, stick with red for clay.

    But as regards the surface playing differently and favouring players other than Rafa and Novak - great. They're just being moaning minnies because they lost. The talk about it being dangerous looks like tosh to me.

  • Comment number 84.

    As for HT-Hotspur - Rafa is a class act, a gentleman in defeat, and a player whose "one-dimensional style" has conquered all surfaces, even ones to which he isn't well suited, due to his unmatched will-to-win. There is no doubt in my mind he could also win on blue clay, if it were worth him learning to do so. Your vitriol towards him as a person is your prerogative, although baffling. However, if you don't understand what makes him a great player, and refer to his style as "mundane", then I can say with no hesitation that you know nothing about tennis and should stick to watching re-runs of Isner vs Mahut as that's clearly more your thing.

  • Comment number 85.

    And now Novak has lost in the next round, lets see who else comments on the surface now. It will be interesting to see the reaction if Roger Federer decides to drop his perfect gentleman image and say what he actually thinks of the surface.

    Although in all honesty, the opinions of Rafa and Novak should be enough. Its fair to assume that Rafa Nadal knows a thing or two about clay surfaces after all.

  • Comment number 86.

    As an addendum to my above comment, the tournament director has come out and admitted that the courts are too slippery and not performing as intended, so its pretty clear the problem exists.

  • Comment number 87.

    Can I just remind everyone that tennis tournaments are not there for the benefits of the players, but for the paying public? Admittedly, the public do not want to see an unplayable surface, but the Madrid tournament does not exist solely for the purpose of preparing Nadal for the French open. So for next year make it less slippery, but I for one think blue looks great.

  • Comment number 88.

    Sorry RickyM, history says something different.

    The whole idea of prizemoney, came from the first time an event ask the public for money to see a match. They turned up in the knowledge that as a viewing audience they would have to pay a small sum. As this grew for the promoters, they began to offer a larger prize of money to keep the player at their event and not someone elses.

    Its always been about the excitement between the match and the audience watching, and the first thing to remember is that without the players, there would be no audience and visa versa. The players get renumeration for playing and winning, the audience get nothing but the chance to see them play live. Thats it.

    The whole idea that the players are there just for the viewers is wrong and if the players don't turn up next year, then who are the audience going to blame, the players?... no, the tournament and its directors, esp if enough of the top stars won't be there.

    Its turned into promotional suicide and for them to have "tested" this surface on the top pros is more evidence of the crazy way in which this event has been run in the last few years.

  • Comment number 89.

    @83
    This experiment may have failed on some fronts but having watched the Raonic/Federer match it is clear the surface is playable.

    Too many courts have been slowed down, tennis matches are now tests of endurance rather than skill. A balance needs to be found between the endless baseline rallies and the short serve & volley game - I would like to see the grass courts speeded up a bit - variety was part and parcel of the game and it has been lost as the surfaces become more homogenised.



    Raonic looks an exciting propsect for the future.

  • Comment number 90.

    I can see a lot of the posters here see a maximum of 7-14 matches a year, so not much sense from them. They neither watch it nor play it. The risk to one's health is a paramount reason to be critical of such an experiment.

  • Comment number 91.

    coats 89

    No, I love the Nadal v Djokovic slugfests, they're giving us a great rivalry and a series of titanic (if rather too elasticated for my taste) battles, but I do not want to see this as the final in every slam on every surface. Time for one of the younger guys to crack things open a little bit and, yes I agree, it may well be that Raonic, he looks impressive.

  • Comment number 92.

    @ 84

    "Rafa is a class act, a gentleman in defeat" then why is he moaning and complaining and threatening rather than gracefully congratulating his opponent, why he is making excuses?

    Yes Rafa has conquered all surfaces, even ones which he isn't well suited to BUT that is because all the court surfaces are suited to HIS style of play - even the traditional grass courts have been tampered with over the years getting more and more slower so that players like Rafa have an ever increasing chance of moon balling their shots with their over excessively heavy topspin technique which forces their opponents to hit unnatural groundstrokes such as hitting their forehands and backhands at shoulder height; hey might as well be airstrokes and groundstokes. Yes, I call Rafa's style mundane not because it is ineffective, no - it is extremely effective - I call it mundane because it is inelegant and unnatural.

    "Due to his unmatched will-to-win" and there you have it, that's what makes him a great player. Not his shotmaking ability and his shot selection or even shot variety. All the commentators talk about is his magnificent will-to-win. And don't get me wrong it is magnificent, it is an admirable mental trait but not a technical skill required win a match. Rafa relies heavily on shot placement and accuracy as opposed to shot penetration, power, accuracy and placement that's why the slow surfaces suit him best because he has ample time to adjust his position and retrieve his opponents shots. I would love to see the grass courts of Wimbledon return to the original form, the traditional fast-paced condition and we will see if his one undeniable quality of willpower to win will actually win him the match. Rafa is only great because the conditions are suited to him and as for your argument that he has conquered all surfaces even ones he isn't well suited to, well actually that isn't really an argument at all as Rafa has not actually had to adapt his style to those apparently unsuited surfaces as they have already been adjusted to suit him!

    I'm afraid you have misconstrued my comments entirely. Rafa is unquestionably a great players whose incredible knack for playing the impossible (possibly due to the "slow" and "Rafa-suited" court surfaces) is quite simply nothing short of awe-inspiring and amazing. Would Rafa get all those impossibles if the courts were faster? Who knows! Yes Rafa plays great tennis but he does not play pure tennis. Not like Roger, Pete, Stefan, Johnny Mac, Boris, Bjorn, Jimmy Connors, Andre, Steffi and Justine - but I know nothing about tennis. I guess I should stick to the Isner & Mahut re-runs!

  • Comment number 93.

    * They may as well be airstrokes than groundstokes.

  • Comment number 94.

    @ 84

    It is my very understanding of what makes Rafa a great player that I can say with no hesitation that I know seemingly a lot more about tennis than you would have everyone else on here believe!

  • Comment number 95.

    @90, Russeljones wrote:

    "I can see a lot of the posters here see a maximum of 7-14 matches a year, so not much sense from them. They neither watch it nor play it. "


    But the masses who view only occasional, high-profile, matches/tournaments ARE the reason that sponsors, TV companies, etc., are prepared to pour great sums of money into the coffers of the top players.

    Can't have it both ways.

  • Comment number 96.

    I have never heard anyone complain that a bright yellow ball is difficult to follow against brick-coloured clay, and I've certainly never had any difficulty myself. Baffling.

  • Comment number 97.

    The court is slippy?

    Then the players should change their footwear to something more appropriate to the surface!

  • Comment number 98.

    Just accept they lost and can't win all the time. Don't blame the court but blame themselves for lack of skills and adaptation.

  • Comment number 99.

    Further to my point in 92

    Rafa hasn't had to conquer all the surfaces, they have been conquered for him! The powers that be at the ATP and LTA have said enough is enough with all this serve & volley, we want to see more baseline action. We want to help Rafa win at Wimbledon. But have they said we want to help Rog master the clay but speeding them up! No, Rafa's had it all on a plate and now he wants to spit it all out - now that is a class act!

    OK so Rafa didn't ask for them to "improve" the grass at Wimbledon but he is "demanding" them change the clay at Madrid.

  • Comment number 100.

    @ 98

    That is the precisley the point I am trying to make!

 

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