I’m not usually one to single out a tournament for a scathing blog, because the way I see it, most of them do the best they can. The US Open, for example, has been an administrative disaster for years and their vain attempts to make players play in the rain with water seeping up from UNDERNEATH the courts is absurd to the point of being nearly amusing. But I recognize that the US Open is held in New York City during hurricane season. And so I give a little eye-roll and chalk it up to extraordinarily bad luck and slight foolishness on the part of the USTA for not figuring out a roof solution for the EPICALLY bad Arthur Ashe Stadium.
I’m just nice like that.
But I cannot in good conscience ignore the condition of the “courts” in Madrid this week. Actually, if I’m being completely honest about it, I’m furious. I watched defending champion and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic slide around the baseline in his opening match as though the grounds crew were spraying oil on the court instead of water. I can think of at least a half a dozen instances where Nole literally looked like one of those little cartoon guys, with his legs going really fast, but with no actually lateral movement occurring (you know, like in Tom and Jerry, when Jerry tries to run away from Tom, not realizing that he’s being held by his tail).
Visions of Julien Benneteau and his horrific fall in Monte Carlo flashed before my eyes. Thankfully, the only thing that happened to Nole was a bunch of sliding around and an abysmal second set of tennis. But it brings up the larger question of WHY. Why are the courts like that? Why hasn’t the ATP done something about it? Why are the tournament officials spending extra money on idiotic publicity stunts like dyeing the clay blue when the courts themselves are in such obvious need of attention?
I know that the court conditions in Madrid have never been good. From the first year it debuted as a clay tournament, there have been problems. Holes in the court itself, a grounds crew that allows the surface to go from severely under-water to badly over-watered. So I don’t know if the blue dye is making the clay more slippery than it would normally have been (though I should point out that Djokovic specifically blamed the color in his post-match presser) or whether it’s incompetence. Perhaps both, which is a positively dismal commentary on the state of the tournament.
TWICE on Tuesday, the chair umpire was forced to STOP PLAY and make the grounds crew come back out after a changeover and rake the court because they over-watered it and made it muddy (or whatever you call really wet clay. Soupy? Mucky?).
I know I am jeopardizing any future chances I might have to attend the Madrid Masters, but this is UNACCEPTABLE. The first priority must ALWAYS be the safety of the players. And in this case, player safety doesn’t appear to have even made the top 5 – and it certainly ranks lower than the egos of the people in charge.
The ATP seems to have rules for every blasted thing under the sun. Why don’t they have (or enforce) regulations for court conditions? Where are the ATP sanctions? At the very least, the Madrid organizers should face fines for their decisions. But you know, I think I’d be happier to see the tournament yanked. Send it back to Hamburg. Sure, the weather was lousy there, but I’d rather see the players trudge their way through excruciatingly slow and heavy conditions than worry that somebody is going to shred a ligament.
Nole said that in order to play properly on the courts, he needs to break out his football cleats or ask Chuck Norris (LOL!) for advice. He is clearly incensed. And now that I think on it, the tennis community as a whole owes Rafael Nadal a big apology. The poor guy has taken all kinds of abuse for what was called “bitter complaining” about the blue clay. Turns out, he was right. If anything, he underestimated the scope of the problem.
This is a REQUIRED tournament. If a player chooses to opt out, he gets hit with a penalty from the ATP. I don’t say this very often but it simply isn’t fair. Somebody MUST take the situation in hand.
Sat 06/07 06:31
Tennistalk says farewell
Thu 06/06 04:05
Novak Djokovic's unsung hero
Tue 21/05 15:52
Another Federer and Nadal match disappoints
Fri 17/05 18:03
Bill Tilden and the effects of moral bankruptcy on a legacy
Tue 19/03 21:01
Professor Federer teaches us a thing or two
Mon 18/03 15:43
Nadal makes the cleverest comeback in tennis history
Fri 01/02 22:00
Nadal's return at Vina del Mar
Thu 15/11 16:54
Federer and company make no room at the top for youth
Tue 11/09 20:24
Murray joins the ranks of Grand Slam elite
Fri 17/08 19:45
There is something about Roger Federer
Mon 13/08 23:05
Tennistalk is in Cincinnati again
Tue 12/06 16:21
The French Open, Nadal's personal playground
Wed 09/05 14:58
Novak Djokovic takes up skating at the Madrid ice rink
Thu 29/03 14:30
Nadal and Spain give French TV a punch in the mouth
|1. Djokovic||12 500 pts|
|2. Murray||8 750 pts|
|3. Federer||8 670 pts|
|4. Ferrer||6 970 pts|
|5. Nadal||6 385 pts|
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