Those were the words attributed to one of the founders of the women’s tour in response to the many complaints by the players, mostly the men following the change to blue clay at this year’s Mutua Madrid ATP Masters event and the WTA Premier Mandatory event.
Ion Tiriac, the tournament director of this event, decided with the ATP’s blessing to change the colour of the court to blue. The reason for the change was to aid fans who were watching at home to be able to see the ball. Peronsally speaking, it worked for me. It was a novel approach to tennis and apart from the slipperiness of the court, I thought that the level of tennis that was played by both the men and the women was fantastic to watch.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic and defending finalist Rafael Nadal, along with a few other players, were vocal in their condemnation of the court. There were complaints that not only was the court slippery but that it prevented these 2 men who play a more defensive style of play to play without risking serious injury, especially because it was close to Roland Garros.
Serena Williams, 13 time Grand Slam champion and the eventual winner of this event, called the men weenies for their constant complaints about the court.
As Billie Jean King said, champions adjust. Federer, the eventual winner of the men’s event, served and volleyed in his first match on the surface as he told reporters that it was too slippery at the back of the court to comfortably play from the back of the court.
One thing that was notable in Madrid was the fact that there were no reports of injuries. The winner count was quite high and the unforced error count was way down. I noticed that players who were used to grinding ensured that they got themselves into position quickly in order not to have balls whizzing by them. All in all I think most tennis fans are in agreement that Madrid was a success, albeit that there is room for improvement.
The brouhaha surrounding blue clay courts reinforces in my mind how slow tennis is to change and how much tennis fans themselves are resistant to change. From the use of Hawkeye, to on court coaching (which really needs to go as it adds nothing to the women's game), to the tiebreak, tennis and the fans who are ardent supporters of the game are hesitant to embrace change. Next year Mr. Tiriac says that it will be fluorescent balls. I believe he may be joking, but what if he isn’t?
As I have posted before the coverage of the women’s side of these combined events, and in particular in Madrid, left a lot to be desired.
The next stop on the road to Roland Garros is Rome and coverage starts tomorrow, Monday 15 May on Tennis Channel with the men. However livestreams for the women will be available and I understand that ESPN3 and Eurorsport will have live coverage of the women from Rome. This is a vast improvement over what fans of women’s tennis had to endure over the past week and a half from Madrid.
Congratulations to Serena Williams on her 41st career title and her second of the season. Congratulations are also in order for Victoria Azarenka. While she may have lost and lost badly, one hopes that her 2 most recent losses in finals will not make her dejected in her quest to win a second major this year. She has been the player to beat this season and while she has suffered at the hands of Sharapova and now Williams, one can only hope that she will take lessons from these 2 losses. I am sure that Sumyk and Mauresmo will be working hard to combat the ineffectiveness that is her second serve. Either that or they need to speak with the tennis gods about keeping these 2 women away from Azarenka.
Women to Watch
I will have my eye out on some of the women during this week’s Rome tournament in order to see who has the momentum heading into Paris. There are some players who, while they are doing well day to day, do not seem to be able to lift their games to the next level:-
Sam Stosur – since winning the US Open Stosur has made only one final where she lost to Azarenka in straight sets. She is now on what many consider to be her favourite surface. It will be interesting to see how well she does here.
Ana Ivanovic – one step forward , 5 steps backward.
Maria Sharapova – despite winning in Stuttgart under favourable conditions (no wind, no sunlight, no Serena), Sharapova took 3 steps backward in her loss to Serena in Madrid.
Victoria Azarenka – despite making the finals of the Tour’s first 2 clay events, Azarenka did not take a set from any of the eventual champions. Most of us knew that clay was Vika’s worst surface, and it will be interesting to see how she recovers in Rome.
Caroline Wozniacki – at this time last year Wozniacki was the No. 1 player in the world and feeling the pressure of winning her first Grand Slam. Wozniacki lost to Sharapova in the semis of Rome last year and while her performance against Serena was not bad, she lost the match down the stretch and seemed to run out of ideas. She needs to rebound here if she does not wish to become a statistic.
Jelena Jankovic, Julia Georges and Agnieska Radwanska. These 3 women need to rebound from the disaster that is the clay season so far. I doubt that they will.